Dispelling Common Misconceptions about Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition linked to the ageing process that impacts the brain and results in unintentional or involuntary movements. It is the second most common brain disease associated with age and is estimated to impact at least 1% of the elderly population worldwide, according to professionals. For those living with Parkinson’s disease, the journey can be challenging, both physically and emotionally.
The tremors, stiffness, and loss of balance can make even the simplest of tasks seem impossible. But there is hope. By separating facts from myths, we can better understand this disease and provide the appropriate care and support for those living with it. In this article, let’s bust some myths about Parkinson’s disease and learn how we can help those affected live their best lives.
MYTH 1: Only old people get Parkinson’s disease.
FACT : Although Parkinson’s disease is more common in older adults, it can affect people of any age, including young adults and even children. Some genetic conditions can cause early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive condition that worsens over time, regardless of age.
MYTH 2: The only thing that people with Parkinson’s disease have is shaking.
FACT : While tremors are one of the most recognizable symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, people with the condition can experience a range of other symptoms as well. These include stiffness, slowness of movement, balance problems, sleep disturbances, mood changes, cognitive impairment, and olfactory dysfunction. Non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are often overlooked or misdiagnosed, leading to delays in treatment and support.
MYTH 3: People with Parkinson’s disease are unemotional.
FACT : People with Parkinson’s disease can experience a range of emotions, just like anyone else. However, they may have difficulty expressing these emotions clearly on their face, due to facial masking or rigidity. Parkinson’s disease can also cause depression and anxiety, which can affect emotional wellbeing.
MYTH 4: The slowness in my walking is due to problems in my knees.
FACT : Slowness in walking and balance disturbances can be caused by Parkinson’s disease itself, even in the absence of knee problems. It is important to get evaluated by a neurologist if you experience these symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment can improve outcomes.
MYTH 5: Parkinson’s disease has no treatment, and the treatments are very dangerous.
FACT : While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, many treatments are available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. These include medications, surgery, and lifestyle changes. Drug induced Parkinson’s treatment includes medications, such as levodopa, which can improve movement and reduce stiffness, while deep brain stimulation can help alleviate tremors and other symptoms. These treatments are not dangerous when prescribed and monitored by a healthcare professional.
MYTH 6: Parkinson’s disease is caused by head injuries.
FACT : While head injuries can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, they are not a direct cause. Genetics and environmental factors also play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease. Some environmental factors that may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease include exposure to certain chemicals and pesticides, although this is not the sole cause of the disease.
MYTH 7: Parkinson’s disease is a hereditary condition.
FACT : Is Parkinson’s disease genetic? While some genetic factors increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, most cases are not inherited. Parkinson’s disease risk factors include a family history of the condition, but this is not true in all cases. Parkinson’s disease is a complex condition that can result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
MYTH 8: Doctors can always provide an accurate outlook.
FACT : While doctors can provide an overview of what to expect with Parkinson’s disease, the progression of the condition varies significantly among individuals. Therefore, it is challenging to predict accurately how a particular individual’s Parkinson’s disease will progress. In some cases, Parkinson’s disease complications progress more slowly, while in other cases, the disease progresses more rapidly.
MYTH 9: Everyone with Parkinson’s has tremors.
FACT : Although tremors are a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease, not everyone with the condition experiences them. Some individuals may develop nonmotor symptoms such as sleep disorders, constipation, or depression before experiencing tremors. Additionally, some individuals may never develop tremors during the course of their Parkinson’s disease.
MYTH 10: People with Parkinson’s might experience ‘flare-ups.’
FACT : Parkinson’s disease does not typically have flare-ups. Instead, symptoms progress slowly over time, and while symptoms may fluctuate throughout the day, sudden worsening of symptoms is typically not a sign of a Parkinson’s flare-up. If symptoms suddenly worsen, it may be due to other factors such as medication changes, infection, or stress.
MYTH 11: Beyond drugs, nothing can help.
FACT : Exercise has been shown to help in slowing down Parkinson’s disease symptoms and may even slow disease progression. Starting an exercise program earlier and consistently doing it for at least 2-3 hours a week has been shown to slow the decline in quality of life compared to those who start exercising later. Additionally, physical therapy and other interventions may also help manage symptoms.
MYTH 12: Parkinson’s is fatal.
FACT : While Parkinson’s disease is a chronic condition that can impact a person’s quality of life, it is not typically fatal. Parkinson’s disease can increase the risk of falls and pneumonia, but most patients die with the disease and not from it. Many people with Parkinson’s disease can live long and fulfilling lives with proper management and care.
Parkinson’s disease is not just a medical condition, it’s a deeply personal journey that affects not only the individual but their entire support system. Every person who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s has a unique story to tell, and their experiences deserve to be heard with empathy and compassion. It is important to debunk the misconceptions that surround this disease and educate ourselves about the realities of living with Parkinson’s disease.
As we continue to make strides in research and medical advancements, we should never forget the human aspect of this condition. For those who are battling Parkinson’s disease, know that you are not alone. Let’s continue to educate one another with effective treatments and management strategies, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life and also preventing Parkinson’s disease.
- Parkinson’s Disease: Myths and Facts
- Myths and Facts: 7 Parkinson’s Disease Misconceptions
- 9 Myths About Parkinson’s Disease
About Author –
Dr. Varun Reddy Gundluru, Consultant Neurologist , Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad
MD (Manipal), DM Neurology (AIIMS, New Delhi)