On Sunday, 11th of April, was Parkinson’s awareness day, so today we’ll be taking a look at how the disease impacts people’s lives. In the United States, nearly one million people were living with Parkinson’s by 2020, with around 60,000 Americans being diagnosed each year. Given the prevalence and severity of the disease, it’s important to recognize the effects it has on people’s lives.
Parkinson’s is a disorder affecting the brain that occurs when neurons in the area of the brain controlling movement become impaired or die. The disease is most prevalent in those aged 60 and older, but can affect people under 50 as “early-onset” Parkinson’s.
The main symptoms of the disease include tremors (trembling), stiffness (of the limbs and trunk), slowed movement, and impairment to balance and coordination. Symptoms usually begin slowly, and gradually worsen over time -- though, progression rates and severity vary from person to person.
The disorder itself is not fatal, however, it places great strain on the body that can leave the afflicted person more vulnerable to complications, other illnesses, and injuries due to accidents such as falls. Many people respond well to treatment and can continue to live with only mild to moderate disability, while the minority does experience progression to the point of needing assistance with everyday activities.
Parkinson’s can clearly cause serious disruptions in people’s lives and is often linked to mental health struggles such as depression and anxiety. Especially in the later stages of the disease, confusion and even dementia can set in and further worsen mental well-being. However, treatment options are effective and constantly developing, including new methods such as most recently: repurposing diabetes treatments to target the affected brain chemicals, and gene therapy approaches.
The most common treatment for Parkinson’s typically involves drugs that help to replace the lost dopamine in the brain, alongside those that help to manage discomfort. With treatment, many people experience comparable lifespans to those without Parkinson’s.
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