World Parkinson’s Day: 5 science-backed facts about the disease

World Parkinson’s Day: 5 science-backed facts about the disease

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From its perceived confinement to motor symptoms to fears surrounding medication, common myths have hindered the understanding and treatment of the condition.

Every year World Parkinson’s Day is celebrated on April 11 to spread awareness and understanding about the often-misunderstood neurodegenerative movement disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. From its perceived confinement to motor symptoms to fears surrounding medication, common misconceptions have hindered the understanding and the treatment of the condition.

Dr James Parkinson, born on April 11, 1755, is credited with discovering the first case of “the Shaking Palsy” in 1817. Here’s looking at some science-backed facts about Parkinson’s Disease:

Fact 1: Parkinson’s is not just a motor condition.

Non-motor symptoms can show up even before the typical symptoms start, and continue throughout the disease. Studies find that almost all Parkinson’s patients experience at least one non-motor symptom. The most common ones include problems with the autonomic system and sleep, digestive and cardiovascular issues, greatly impacting the patients’ quality of life. Psychiatric issues, such as depression, hypomania, and visual hallucinations, are also common. 

Fact 2: Parkinson’s is not always hereditary. 

Parkinson’s can run in families, but it’s rarely due to direct inheritance. Only about 15 percent of individuals with the disease have a family history of the condition. It is important to understand that the disease results from a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. 

Fact 3: Young people can get Parkinson’s too. 

Parkinson’s is often linked to older adults and is typically diagnosed in individuals over the age of 50. However, the disease can affect people of all ages. In fact, a small percentage of Parkinson’s cases fall into the category of “early-onset” disease, which manifests before the age of 50. Due to widespread misconceptions about the disease, in many cases, the condition is undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for extended periods of time.

Fact 4: Parkinson’s medications are toxic. 

Contrary to popular belief, medications like levodopa, the mainstay of Parkinson’s treatment, are neither toxic nor do they hasten disease progression. However, its long-term or extended use may lead to severe side effects, such as hallucinations, psychosis, and dyskinesia (involuntary movements). It’s recommended that patients stop the medication only after consulting their physician, as abruptly discontinuing the medication can also cause serious side effects.

Fact 5: There is no cure for Parkinson’s.

There is no cure yet. However, therapies including medicines, surgery and rehabilitation can help reduce symptoms; they cannot replace lost nerve cells or stop its progression. Deep brain stimulation and physiotherapy can also offer relief for patients with Parkinson’s.

This World Parkinson’s Day, let’s spread facts, not myths. 

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