Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

Image Credit: Parkinson’s Foundation


April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Through the Parkinson’s Foundation, individuals with Parkinson’s disease are encouraged to share their experience with the disease in order to raise awareness and provide coping methods.


What is it?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurogenerative disorder. It affects the dopamine-producing neurons in the brain—more specifically referred to as the substantia nigra. The disease is diversive, meaning that it doesn’t affect two people the same. The cause is undetermined, and though there is no cure, there are some treatment options including medication and surgery. PD isn’t fatal, but the complications it comes with can be, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) names it as the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. It typically affects adults older than fifty, but Young Onset Parkinson’s disease can affect individuals much younger.


The disease usually progresses slowly over the course of several years. Symptoms vary from person to person, but PD is usually characterized by tremors (particularly when still), bradykinesia (slow movements), rigid limbs, and balance problems. Other symptoms unrelated to motor functions include depression, apathy, cognitive impairment, and sleeping issues.

Individuals typically don’t begin experiencing symptoms until the disease has been progressing for years. Symptoms and diagnostic tests are used to diagnose PD. The Hoehn and Yahr scale is often used to measure how the disease is progressing case by case.


How is it treated?

The best way to treat PD and learn to live with it every day is to understand the progression of your symptoms. PD patients typically require a medication that restores dopamine to the brain referred to as a dopaminergic. Patients should sit down with their doctors to discuss symptoms and their severity to determine the most effective treatment options. Therapies aim to slow the progression of the disease and ease symptoms. Current research is aimed at identifying biomarkers so that PD can be diagnosed earlier and the progression of the disease slowed. Early signs include slight tremors, loss of smell, difficult sleeping, a change in handwriting, facial masking, and trouble moving.


Raising Awareness

Ten million people worldwide experience PD, and one million of those individuals live in the United States. Raising awareness and funds will advance research and help researchers find a cure and treatment options. Awareness and advocacy can also help people living with PD by providing them with resources, treatment options, and improved quality of life.


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