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10 Things You Don't Know About PD

Monday February 13, 2017

PostureWhen it comes to Parkinson’s Disease, many folks have a mental image of an elderly man, stooped and hunched over, with a slow, shuffling gait, a cane, soft spoken and with slurred speech—maybe even drooling. While true in some cases of advanced Parkinson’s, there are simply too many other symptoms and situations that render this stereotype incomplete and inaccurate. What follows are facts to help dispel the myths.

  1.  Young onset Parkinson’s (diagnosed before the age of 50) accounts for a significant percentage of those with PD. For example, Ben Patrick, once thought to be a future Hall of Fame baseball player, was diagnosed in his 20’s.
  2. Movement disorders account for less than half of the typical symptoms of PD. Nevertheless, they are worth reviewing and learning the appropriate vocabulary. (Remember, this writer used to be an English teacher).
  3. Involuntary twisting or writhing motions (think Michael J Fox) are called dyskinesia. Amazingly, they are caused by the medication used to control dopamine levels in the brain.
  4. Bradykinesia literally means slow movement and can severely impact the quality of life for PwP’s (People with Parkinson’s).
  5. Other common movement disorders include tremor, rigidity, balance issues (resulting in falls), micrographia (small handwriting) and a mask-like expression.

Brainpuzzle

What amazed me the most when I started attending conferences, reading and researching Parkinson’s Disease was the vast array of non-motor symptoms that can accompany PD. Here are a few of the most common:

  1. Loss of sense of smell is perhaps the most frequent non-motor symptom and usually occurs a decade or more before tremors or other movement issues. Unfortunately, this is not a reliable indicator as allergies and simply growing older may also reduce the sense of smell.
  2. Depression, anxiety and apathy are also common. Any given PwP may have none, one, two or all three of these distinctly different symptoms. On a personal note, I have a hard time getting started on almost any project—writing this column, walking the dog, exercising, etc. Knowing apathy is one of my symptoms helps me recognize and overcome my inertia.
  3. Gastrointestinal issues—namely, constipation—are also not unusual.  Enough said. I was going to make some kind of pun for my regular readers but decided not to.
  4. Sleep disorders can be very serious and affect quality of life for both the PwP and their care partner. REM sleep disorder (parasomnia), although not especially common, is the acting out of vivid dreams while sleeping—often filled with action and sometimes violent. Typically, while in the REM stage of sleep, the muscles are essentially paralyzed. Not so with REM sleep disorder. For example, a friend of mine got out of bed and destroyed his computer one night during a dream.
  5. You’ve made it this far so let’s wrap it up with sex. Yes, sex. There are two primary PD issues involving sex and PD—too much and too little. Too much sex is associated with compulsive behaviors (sometimes gambling or shopping) as a side effect of some medication. Diminished libido, ED and other factors (simply watch the advertisements on TV to learn more) contribute to the opposite issue.

Some folks with PD have most of these symptoms, some folks just a few. No matter, they all have an impact on the quality of life for those living with PD—including care givers or care partners. That will be the topic of an upcoming column.

This column originally appeared in The River Journal.

A.C. WoolnoughA.C. Woolnough
NWPF Blogger

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