Approximately one million people are affected by Parkinson’s disease in the United States. As common as this movement disorder is, it is incredibly misunderstood by the masses with illogical myths surrounding it. Misconceptions about Parkinson’s disease are about just as common as the disease itself.
To gain a better understanding about Parkinson’s disease, let’s break through some of the popular myths associated with it.
Myth #1: Parkinson’s disease only affects movement
Although Parkinson’s disease has a set of motor symptoms which including tremors, rigidity, gradual loss of spontaneous movement and impaired balance, it also has non motor symptoms as well. These non motor symptoms include REM sleep behavior disorder, depression, difficulty in swallowing or chewing, urinary incontinence, constipation, difficulty focusing, increased salivation, increased sweating and visual hallucinations.
Myth #2: Only the elderly can be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease
That is not necessary. Although the average age of diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease is 60, a sizable portion of the affected individuals are diagnosed before they reach the age of 40! Parkinson’s disease is a hard disease to pinpoint and diagnose due to the number of ways it can manifest. People with Young onset Parkinson’s disease often live their lives without even knowing they have the disease. Nevertheless, people with Young onset Parkinson’s disease have the same symptoms as elderly Parkinson’s disease patients do.
Myth #3: Parkinson’s disease is the same for everyone
Contrary to popular disease, Parkinson’s disease can vary from one affected individual to the next. Everyone with Parkinson’s disease experiences it a little differently. For some Parkinson’s disease patients, tremors are the first symptom they experience while others don’t get tremors for years. Gait and facial masking are relatively common in patients of Parkinson’s disease but looking for a particular look to identify Parkinson’s disease does not work because not everyone experiences them.
Myth #4: Substantia nigra pars compacta is the only part of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease
Most people associate Parkinson’s disease with tremors, which is a very common symptom of the disease. Tremors are caused by the damage to the neurons located in the substantia nigra pars compacta. Damage to this region of the brain brings about the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease like tremors and rigidity. However, Parkinson’s disease also damages other regions of the brain causing assorted motor, affective, cognitive, autonomic and sensory impairments.
Myth #5: Parkinson’s disease is caused by genetic mutation
The scientific community has not reached a conclusive cause of Parkinson’s disease yet as it still remains a subject of extensive research. So far, genetic as well as external factors are deemed to be the causal factors for the development of Parkinson’s disease. However, there is no single gene, the mutation of which can lead to Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease can certainly run in the family which insinuates that there is a hereditary factor present but most of the Parkinson’s disease cases are sporadic which means that they occur in people without a history of Parkinson’s disease whatsoever.
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