A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is always scary, but it can be even more intimidating if you don’t know what the diagnosis really means. You might have heard of Parkinson’s causing tremors and mobility issues, but if that’s all you know about it, you probably have a lot of questions, especially if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While we can’t tell you everything about the disease in a blog post, we can give you an idea of some of the things you can expect from a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
- Early Warning Signs
While tremors and mobility issues are probably the most well-known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, they’re not the only indications that something might be wrong. Before the disease reaches that stage, many patients experience loss of smell, constipation, vivid dreaming, and their handwriting might become very small.
- Brain Cell Death
Cells in the substantia nigra section of the brain are responsible for producing dopamine, which helps the brain control movement of the body. When these brain cells start to die, Parkinson’s disease develops, and it is the reduced levels of dopamine in the brain that lead to the tremors and loss of motor control that tend to characterize Parkinson’s disease.
- Unknown Causes
No one knows what causes Parkinson’s disease. Based on what we know so far, the best guess scientists can make is that it’s a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition, but so far the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease remain a medical mystery that has yet to be solved.
- How Is Parkinson’s Diagnosed?
Because Parkinson’s develops when certain brain cells start to die, it’s difficult to diagnose when the patient is still living. In order to diagnose a patient with Parkinson’s disease, a doctor would need to conduct a physical exam, as well as a variety of tests to determine whether two of the four main symptoms are present: tremors/shaking, slow movements, rigid limbs and/or torso, and difficulty balancing.
- When Is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?
The average age of patients who experience the onset of Parkinson’s disease is 62. If the patient is less than 50 years old at the time of their Parkinson’s diagnosis, it’s known as young-onset or early-onset Parkinson’s disease.
As with Alzheimer’s and dementia, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, although the progression of the disease can be slowed down with the help of drugs that can mimic, or even replace dopamine. Exercise is also a critical factor for managing the disease and mitigating the effects of the loss of mobility and balance caused by the disease. In some cases, deep brain stimulation surgery has also proven effective in combatting the disease.
Whether you or your loved one is suffering from reduced mobility, cognitive decline, or both, we can come up with a plan to help them here at Stillwater Senior Living. Everything from our Senior Messages to our new Lakeside Memory Care Neighborhood is designed to help our residents age in comfort and with dignity.
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) provides a host of resources you can take advantage of to help raise awareness for Parkinson’s in your own community. From social media badges and hashtags to green tree ribbons, they are full of ideas and tools you can use to raise awareness for Parkinson’s.
The PDF is promoting the hashtag #EndParkinsons to help raise awareness for the disease during the month of April. You can use the hashtag and see what other people are posting under that hashtag to help bring awareness of Parkinson’s to your community.
Better yet, you can familiarize yourself with some of the early warning signs of Parkinson’s There’s no cure yet, but the earlier you identify it, the better your chances for being able to minimize some of the damage it causes and help maintain your health and independence as long as possible.
Shaking or twitching can sometimes be experienced after exercise, an injury, or can be caused by certain types of medication. But if none of these are the cause of your tremors, and it happens repeatedly, you might want to talk to your doctor.
Our handwriting can change as we get older, either as a result of stiff limbs and/or poor eyesight, but if you notice your handwriting has suddenly gotten much smaller and/or words are closer together, it might be a sign of a deeper problem and you should consider consulting your doctor.
Trouble Sleeping Or Holding Still
We all have the occasional night when we can’t fall asleep and spend the night tossing and turning. That’s normal, but what’s not normal is falling out of bed while asleep or kicking/thrashing while asleep. If your partner notices a sudden increase in your activity when your asleep, or even wants to move to another bed because of your constant movement, it may be an early sign of Parkinson’s.
Many of us experience stiffness as we age, especially after long periods of sitting or lying still. But if you still feel stiff while/after moving for a few minutes, you might have a problem. Some people in the early stages of Parkinson’s have reported feeling like their feet are “stuck to the floor,” their arms don’t swing back and forth when they walk, and other people telling them they look stiff.
Everyone has the occasional bowel movement that gives them trouble, but if you notice you’re consistently straining every time you go the restroom, you should probably consult your physician.
A change in how you speak can also be a sign of Parkinson’s. If your friends and family notice that you suddenly sound hoarse or that you’re speaking softly, even if you think you’re speaking normally, it might be time to see your doctor.
People in the early stages of Parkinson’s might look serious, depressed, or even angry, even when they’re not in bad mood. It’s known as masking and it might come along with staring off into space and/or going for long periods without blinking.
Having one or two of these symptoms might not necessarily mean you have Parkinson’s, but if you’re experiencing two or more symptoms, they could be warning signs, especially if they come on suddenly and don’t appear to have any outward causes.
Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.
CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.