Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that affects a person’s movement and speech. It is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the United States, after Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that 60,000 Americans were living with the disease in 2010, with the number of new cases predicted to increase to more than 50,000 by 2020.
Although Parkinson’s disease is more often seen in people over the age of 60, it can strike at any age. Parkinson’s disease occurs when cells in a specific area of the brain begin to die off. These cells produce a chemical called dopamine, which sends signals to the part of the brain that controls movement.
Despite the general awareness of people about this disease, there are still some misconceptions that exist about it. In this post, we will discuss all of these myths and give them proper elucidation.
Myth: It Is Only A “Motor” Disease
Fact: If you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s or know someone who has, you’ve probably heard that Parkinson’s is “only” a motor condition. While Parkinson’s can have a big impact on motor skills, the reality is that people with Parkinson’s experience a variety of symptoms. It also has psychological and behavioral effects, including depression, anxiety, and apathy.
Many people know that depression is common among those with PD, but they may not know that it often occurs before the characteristic motor symptoms of PD develop. This can be a problem because depression, and other non-motor symptoms, can make PD and different types of movement disorders hard to recognize, delaying the diagnosis. That’s why identifying and treating depression early is essential.
Myth: Parkinson’s Disease Medications Can Cause Symptoms
Fact: You may have heard that certain Parkinson’s medications can make symptoms worse. You may even believe it yourself. But it’s just a myth.
Parkinson’s medications do not cause symptoms, even as they relieve Parkinson’s symptoms. The confusion is understandable since Parkinson’s itself can cause symptoms, such as tremors, stiffness, and slowness of movement.
Levodopa is a drug used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It works by helping the brain make dopamine, a chemical that is generally produced in the brain. The drug is given to people with Parkinson’s disease in a pill form that they take by mouth. However, many think that this medication triggers more complications than relieving the problem. Previous clinical trials have disproved it, and it is no longer essential to delve into it.
Myth: Parkinson’s Disease Always Cause Tremors
Fact: Tremoring is the most iconic symptom of the condition, but it’s far from the only one. Parkinson’s tremor is a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself. There are other symptoms that may be present, including slurred speech, loss of smell, constipation, stiffness and slowed movements, movement disorders, depression, and dementia. There are also non-motor symptoms such as sleep disorders, constipation, and pain. In fact, some people have been diagnosed with the condition without suffering from tremors at all.
Myth: There’s Nothing That You Can Do If You Have Parkinson’s Disease
Fact: Parkinson’s disease can be a scary condition. And the reality is it can make life hard. But before you throw your hands up in horror, know that there is plenty you can do! Yes, there are medications that can help alleviate symptoms, but with suitable therapies, there are also things you can do at home to help prevent the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
An example of good therapy is exercise. Numerous studies suggest that PD patients who are physically active retain “normalcy” in their lives. Meanwhile, those who remain sedentary are more prone to the severe symptoms of the disease.
Myth: Parkinson’s Disease Is A Death Sentence
Fact: The most common myth surrounding Parkinson’s disease is that it is fatal. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disease, meaning it has no cure, but it is not fatal. Many people with Parkinson’s disease live for many years after diagnosis with the right treatment. Unlike a heart attack, Parkinson’s disease is not a direct culprit for its patients’ death. But since the condition causes frailty on the motor and logical skills, it makes a person susceptible to accidents and other hazards (i.e., falls).
Another indirect cause of death for Parkinson’s disease is infection. Hence, it is vital that a patient keeps up with regular medical check-ups.
Myth: Deep Brain Stimulation Is A “Trial-Phase” Therapy For Parkinson’s Disease
Fact: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure used to treat many neurological conditions. The procedure sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain. These impulses act as “pacemakers” for the brain and can help control symptoms. DBS is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, essential tremors, and severe cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).