Parkinson’s Disease: Common Facts and Misconceptions

Dr. James Parkinson was the first person to identify Parkinson’s disease, which is a continuously developing neurodegenerative brain disorder that only worsens slowly over a period of time. As of now, the cause of the condition is unknown and no cure has been discovered yet. However, there are various treatment alternatives such as medication and surgery that can prevent the condition from worsening further.

Although Parkinson’s disease is not fatal, complications associated with the condition may sometimes lead to death. Irregular functioning and death of neurons in the brain is one such complication. Neurons create a chemical called dopamine that sends messages to the part of the brain that is responsible for coordination and control of movements. As a result, the death of neurons depletes the amount of dopamine in the brain, leading to loss of control over movement.

Here are some of the common facts related to Parkinson’s disease:

  • It is caused and progresses due to decrease in production of dopamine.
  • Almost 4 million people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year around the world.
  • Stiffness or rigidity of the muscles, tremor and slow or less movement are some of the early signs of the disease.
  • Parkinson’s disease usually progresses with age.
  • Almost 5% of people aged below 40 years are diagnosed with this disease.
  • Although there is no specific cure for Parkinson’s disease, its symptoms can be controlled and treated with a combination of drugs, physiotherapy and speech therapy.

People whose close one suffer from this disease or those who are at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease are often surrounded by a lot of misconceptions. It is important to clear your mind of all the doubts and misconceptions that you may have about Parkinson’s disease, before you can take care of yourself or your loved ones.

Some of the misconceptions associated with Parkinson’s disease are discussed below:

Myth #1: Parkinson’s disease patients who look good are assumed to be well.

Fact: Parkinson’s disease symptoms may vary across cases and are not visible all the in every patient. Even if a person looks good, they may not be feeling well always due to non-motor symptoms, including nausea, weight change, altered sense of smell and taste, dementia, drooling and difficulty in swallowing.

Myth #2: When a patient does not feel well, doctors and patients blame Parkinson’s disease for all the problem.

Fact:  Problems such as headache, vision loss, vertigo, weakness, fever and chest pain require medical attention as they are not always a symptom of the disease. Therefore, it is important to consult a good medical practitioner in case any unusual symptom appears.

Myth #3: Parkinson’s disease only causes tremor, stiffness and slowness in movement.

Fact: There are other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that are not related to movement, including sweating, fatigue, pain, tingling sensation, lightheadedness, anxiety, sleep disorders, impaired sense of smell, sexual dysfunction and depression.

Non-motor or invisible symptoms observed in people suffering from Parkinson’s can be treated along with proper treatment, if tracked down properly and discussed with doctors.

Myth #4: People diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease flare up suddenly.

Fact: As Parkinson’s disease progresses at a very slow pace, it is important to find out the underlying cause if the symptoms worsen over time. A number of reasons such as dehydration, surgery, stress, changes in medicines, infections and other medical problems can worsen the symptoms.

Drugs that are known to worsen Parkinson’s disease symptoms include lithium, antipsychotics, valproic acid, promethazine, prochlorperazine and metoclopramide.

Myth #5: People feel it is better to wait before taking the next dose of levodopa.

Fact: To let the medicines work effectively, medicines like levodopa should be taken timely before the earlier dose wears off.

Myth#6:  People hesitate to start consuming levodopa as they think it loses its effectiveness after 5 years.

Fact: Levodopa improves the quality of life and also increases the lifespan of the patients. It helps treat most of the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, if not all.

Myth #7:  Generic brands of levodopa and carbidopa are available in different colors.

Fact:  It is important to verify the dose being taken to avoid errors in medication. Standard tablets are generally yellow in color irrespective of the brand and come in 25/100 mg doses.

Myth #8: Most patients think doctors can predict their future.

Fact: Progression of Parkinson’s disease and its symptoms are unique to each case and a doctor cannot predict the future of the patient. The patient can help control the disease by exercising regularly, taking proper food and sleeping adequately to improve mobility, quality of life, stamina and mood.