Approximately one million people in the US today have Parkinson’s disease, and there are approximately 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year. With celebrities such as Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali putting a public face to this condition, some Interesting myths and fictions have arisen about this degenerative disease. Here are the some of the more common facts and fictions.
Common Facts and Fictions Regarding Parkinson’s Disease
- Only Old People Get Parkinson’s.
Not true. Michael J. Fox was only 29 when he was diagnosed, and Muhammad Ali was 42. While the disease is usually diagnosed at age 60 or older, younger people can still develop it.
- No one knows what causes Parkinson’s.
This one is true. While a number of genetic and environmental factors are believed to contribute to the risk of developing Parkinson’s, the specific cause is still unknown, even in those with a genetic predisposition.
- Caffeine protects against Parkinson’s.
While people who drink beverages that contain caffeine do have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s, an actual cause-effect relationship has not yet been proven.
- There are effective treatments for Parkinson’s.
It depends. There are a wide range of treatments for Parkinson’s, from prescription medications to surgery, but every case is different, and each person reacts differently to specific treatments. In general, there are many treatments that can improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease – but there is no actual cure.
- Parkinson’s always gets worse.
Unfortunately, this statement is true. Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, and the symptoms gradually worsen and increase over time.
- Exercise can help.
This is true. Exercise has been shown to improve balance, flexibility, strength, motor coordination, and gait – and even reduce tremor. Research studies are evaluating how exercise may even slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Exercises that may help include tai chi, yoga, treadmill walking, dancing, biking, and both strength and flexibility training.
- A diagnosis of Parkinson’s is simple.
Not at all. Unfortunately, there is no one specific test to confirm Parkinson’s disease. Instead, doctors rely on a number of tests to rule out other conditions and then make an evaluation based on individual symptoms and test data. Often, it takes weeks or even months for a final diagnosis to be made.
- Parkinson’s only affects movement and speech.
Not true. There are number of less obvious symptoms such as depression, anxiety, memory problems, sleep issues, and changes in writing as well as sense of smell and vision that may also occur in patients with Parkinson’s.
- Surgery is a good option for Parkinson’s.
It depends. While lesioning surgeries that targeted and destroyed specific parts of the brain – most commonly thalamotomy, sub-thalamotomy, and pallidotomy – were once commonly performed, recent research has made them less popular, and the newer procedure of deep brain stimulation, or DBS, has largely replaced these procedures. Because of its inherent risks, no surgery should be considered until all nonsurgical options have been explored.
- Parkinson’s causes dementia.
This is not true. Dementia with Lewy bodies – one of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s – is actually a unique disease, distinct from both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Luckily, there are many resources and continuing research on Parkinson’s disease. a strong support network is essential for those dealing with Parkinson’s, and you may want to consider some of the in-home services available. Don’t be afraid to reach out for the help you need!