Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

[5 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month – a month designated since 1983 to raise awareness for this neurodegenerative disease.

  • You can help those affected imagine a world without Parkinson’s by using your voice to share resources with others.

  • Many advancements in treatments and therapies can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life, including deep brain stimulation.

  • The sooner Parkinson’s is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin – which can help control and improve symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease affects nearly 1 million people in the United States. That’s one million individuals – moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandparents, best friends – who are living with this progressive neurological disease. So, this April, during Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we’re sharing resources, information, and hope with all people affected by this disease.

Learning more about this condition and visualizing a world without the disease can empower us all to create change.

Understanding Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects movement. Neurodegenerative means that it affects areas of the brain (neuro) and progresses over time (degenerative). People with Parkinson’s disease may first experience mild symptoms that are barely noticeable, such as an occasional tremor in their hands. Then, symptoms will worsen and can affect walking, balance, speech, and motor skills.

Read more about Parkinson’s disease and check out these resources from the Parkinson’s Foundation:

What is Parkinson’s disease

10 early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease

What causes Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s vs. essential tremor

Tremor is often one of the first noticeable symptoms of Parkinson’s. People may notice their hands shaking when they are at rest. It typically improves during sleep or activity.

It is important to remember that not all tremors are a sign of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, a condition called essential tremor is sometimes confused with Parkinson’s. The most noticeable difference is that a tremor caused by an essential tremor usually occurs during movements like writing, eating, or drinking. In addition, they tend to go away at rest, which is the opposite of tremors caused by Parkinson’s.

Learn more about tremors:

Clinical assessment of tremor patients

Parkinson’s disease tremors (from Parkinson’s Foundation)

Essential tremor (from MedlinePlus)

Treating Parkinson’s

Today, many exciting breakthrough therapies are helping more people live well with Parkinson’s. For example, deep brain stimulation, which delivers electrical stimulation to specific areas of the brain, has been shown to help control movements and reduce tremors. Other advancements like gene mapping offer insight and understanding into the disease – which may ultimately lead to better treatments and therapies.

Learn more about exciting advances in treating and managing Parkinson’s:

Deep brain stimulation: ‘Flipping the switch’ to change a life

Deep brain stimulation (from Parkinson’s Foundation)

A brain circuit tied to emotion may lead to better treatments for Parkinson’s disease (from NPR)

PD GENEration: Mapping the future of Parkinson’s disease (from Parkinson’s Foundation)

Living with Parkinson’s

A Parkinson’s diagnosis doesn’t have to keep you or your loved ones from living the life they want. Programs, resources and specialized therapy can help you continue to enjoy your favorite activities. Occupational or speech therapy can help improve control of your voice or help you make modifications that allow you to get around your home safely. Support groups can connect you with others living with Parkinson’s – or those caring for someone they love with the disease.

Learn how you or your loved ones can live well with Parkinson’s:

Living and thriving with Parkinson’s disease (from Swedish)

Managing Parkinson’s disease (from Parkinson’s Foundation)

Advice for those newly diagnosed (from Parkinson’s Foundation)

Supporting your mental and physical health (from The Michael J. Fox Foundation)

Find help, hope

Parkinson’s disease is a complex condition – but it’s one you manage when you work closely with a team of experienced and compassionate neurologists. If you’re concerned you or a loved one may have Parkinson’s, talk to your primary care doctor right away. They can perform an initial evaluation and, if necessary, refer you to a neurologist to get to the bottom of what’s causing your symptoms. It’s the first step to finding answers and discovering hope.

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Related resources

The truth behind common Parkinson’s myths

Deep brain stimulation: ‘Flipping the switch’ to change a life

Clinical assessment of tremor patients

Exercise and physical activity are key to living well with Parkinson’s

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

Neuroscience is super complex, and the Providence Brain & Spine Team taps into the many decades of expertise to provide useful and helpful advice and tips on non-surgical and surgical options to treat any disease of the mind.

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