Four Common Misconceptions About Parkinson’s Disease

Sir William Richard Gowers Parkinson Disease sketch, 1886. Public Domain

Previously, we discussed the medical facts associated with Parkinson’s Disease and since 7 to 10 million people currently have this illness, it would be appropriate to pay attention to the misconceptions that are abundant in the social circles and beyond.  

Only then can there be more consideration to assisting those who are inflicted.

The following are a few of these faulty facts:

  • Parkinson’s is an Old Age Disease

It is generally believed that Parkinson’s is a disorder that afflicts the elderly because of their weakened systems or poor health. It is generally believed that anyone who is 60 or above is at risk of developing this disease.  

Parkinson’s is not just an old age disease. Many people are diagnosed with it when they are only in their 40’s. In some cases, people can also be in their late 30’s when they are diagnosed with it, known as YOPD – young on-set of Parkinson’s disease.

The main reason why people believe it is an old age disease is that the average age for the diagnosis is 60. Similarly, many doctors also believed in this misconception which often results in misdiagnosis of young-onset of Parkinson’s disease. Luckily, more doctors now understand that age is not a factor with this disorder.

  • It Starts with a Tremor

Parkinson’s is widely known to be a neurological disorder that impacts motor functions. This is why people usually look at getting a tremor as the first sign of it. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most well-known signs of Parkinson’s.

During the early stages of Parkinson’s, a person might experience slurred or soft speech as well as lose facial expressions. The following are some signs of Parkinson’s disorder, apart from having a tremor:

  • Muscle Rigidness – Stiff muscles can cause pain or make certain actions difficult. These can occur anywhere on the body.
  • Impaired Balance and Posture – It might be difficult for someone to maintain their balance even when standing still. Their posture will also be greatly stooped. They might also face difficulties in standing up from a sitting position.
  • Loss of Unconscious Movements – Unconscious movements include blinking, smiling or even swinging your arms while walking. A person might have decreased functions in this aspect. They will also have to consciously make an effort to make these actions.
  • Change in Reflexes – Reflex actions might also become slower in a person. Apart from their reflexes, they might find it difficult to perform functions such as being able to write, knit or draw and more.
  • Depression or Moodiness – A person can experience major mood swings and depression when they have undiagnosed Parkinson’s. This leads to a lot of confusion, hurt and shame that they are unable to perform regular functions with ease. Depression can worsen Parkinson’s, making a person more prone to indulge in unhealthy behavior that allows the disease to progress faster.
  • Constipation or Urinary Incontinence – Bodily functions might also become out of order with a person needing to urinate more frequently. Similarly, they might experience constipation for a large number of days.
  • Diagnosis is Not Easy

Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is not easy at all and can take a lot of time. Extensive tests need to be completed and no two Parkinson’s disorder cases are the same. An individual might also experience Parkinson’s in a different manner which means that they won’t experience the same symptoms as someone else. In many cases, while the tremor might be the first symptom, others might not show tremors until years later.  

Similarly, for some, slowness in walking as well as difficulty in expressing emotions might be the first symptoms whereas, for others, it might not be the case. For this reason, a person can’t be said to be a patient of Parkinson’s based on symptom comparisons alone. It is always best to go to a doctor to get the symptoms examined and have proper tests run on you.

Doctors also have to run careful tests to discount other conditions that could be responsible for causing the decline in motor skills. After a process of careful elimination, they can then diagnose the patient with Parkinson’s. For some patients, this can mean that they get properly diagnosed four years after they start showing the symptoms.  

  • It’s Hereditary?

Parkinson’s disorder is not hereditary unless you have family members who have this affliction. Even then, the odds of you developing it are low. If you have a family history of the disease with multiple family members who have or had it, then you might have an increased chance of inheriting the condition. However, unlike other disorders, this isn’t limited to a person’s genes.

On the other hand, just because you have Parkinson’s doesn’t mean that your life is over. Sure, there is no cure for the disorder but there is a medication that can make the condition easier to deal with. Similarly, it is better to keep indulging in healthy activities such as yoga, going on walks, spending time with loved ones and more. You don’t have to put your life on hold just because you have this disorder. Another thing you should opt to do is sign up for a support group.

Parkinson’s can be very hard to deal with and each day, you can experience certain symptoms that might make you feel like you have taken two steps forward and ten steps back. With a strong support system, you can easily ensure that you don’t get depressed, especially on days when your symptoms are extremely bad.

Parkinson’s Disease: Medical Facts

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder which has affected 60,000 Americans and approximately 10,000 million people globally. The famous boxing legend Muhammad Ali who passed away recently was a victim of this illness. The disease affects the nervous system and makes physical body movement very difficult.

If you are a victim of this disease or know someone who has been diagnosed with it, here are some facts that you need to know: 

  • Not Only for Old People

According to Rachel Dolhun (VP of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research), the Parkinson’s disease is not just for the old people. It may be mostly diagnosed in people aged 60 or above but it can also affect the younger generation. She gives the example of the famous Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox who was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 29. When the disease is diagnosed at a younger age, it means that it is a young-onset Parkinson’s disease.

  • A lot More than Outward Symptoms and Tremors

Usually, Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed on the basis of outward symptoms. But according to Dolhun, the condition has much more to it that the doctors are unable to see. There are other symptoms like constipation, sleeping habits, mood problems, slurred speeches and depression issues that can point towards a possible case of Parkinson’s.  

  • Diagnosing Parkinson is Difficult

When it comes to diagnosing the Parkinson’s disease, there is no specific test for it making it difficult to diagnose. Usually, doctors look for cardinal features of movement disorder. They have their own way of diagnosing the disease in the following four ways.

  • Analyzing the tremor and shaking of body parts such as the arm, chin, entire hand, thumb, feet, and lips.
  • Inspecting the rigidity on rotating the wrist or elbow of the patients.
  • Checking the movement of the arm i.e. Akinesia
  • Looking through the postural instability while holding onto something to maintain balance.

On the basis of these four elements, doctors diagnose the disease. Also, they ask the patient if they feel shaky, stiff or slow while doing daily tasks to evaluate their condition. At times, this becomes difficult as these symptoms are common with some other diseases but competent doctors try best to diagnose the issue.

Common Symptoms

If you or anyone you know is suffering from any of the following symptoms, then it is time you visit a doctor before things go out of hands.

  • Slowed movement
  • Tremors
  • Loss of automatic movements
  • Rigid muscles
  • Impaired posture and balance
  • Writing changes
  • Speech changes

Is There a Cure for Parkinson Disease?

According to researches, there is no standard cure, but there is treatment available.  The common treatments include surgical therapy and medication. The most important cure for this disease is to incorporate permanent lifestyle changes in the patient’s life.



New Gene Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

Mutations in a gene have been linked to confirmed cases of Parkinson’s disease. The gene TMEM230 is only the third to be definitively linked to the disease and was discovered by researchers at Northwestern Medicine.

The scientists published findings in Nature Genetics of evidence that TMEM230 mutations occurred in patients with Parkinson’s in both North America and Asia. The findings provide new clues about how the disease develops in the brain and could help find therapies for Parkinson’s disease. Currently, there is no cure and few known causes.

“Previous research has associated Parkinson’s disease with various factors in the environment, but the only direct causes that are known are genetic,” principal investigator Teepu Siddique, MD, the Les Turner ALS Foundation/Herbert C. Wenske Foundation Professor of Neurology and of Cell and Molecular Biology, said in a statement. “Many genes have been claimed to cause Parkinson’s disease, but they haven’t been validated. We show that mutations in this new gene lead to pathologically and clinically proven cases of the disease.”

TMEM230 is responsible for producing a protein involved with packaging dopamine in neurons. The researchers believe that the protein is involved in the movement of synaptic vesicles that release dopamine to cells that project into parts of the brain controlling motor activity and other organ systems affected by Parkinson’s.

“Our new findings suggest that normalizing synaptic vesicle trafficking may be a strategy for future therapeutic development,” study first author Han-Xiang Deng, MD, PhD, research professor of Neurology, said. We can develop drugs to promote this critical pathway.”

Only 15% of Parkinson’s disease cases are thought to be caused by genetics. The other genes known to be associated with the disease are SNCA and LRRK2. The researchers discovered TMEM230 after they began investigating a family with 15 members who had symptoms of Parkinson’s in 1996. The scientists then performed an analysis of the DNA of the entire family—those with and without the disease—in order to find a common mutation. Eventually, they identified TMEM230 as the gene with the disease-causing mutation.

“This particular gene causing Parkinson’s disease is not just limited to one population in North America,” Dr. Siddique said. “It’s worldwide, found in very different ethnic and environmental conditions. These mutations are that strong.”

Parkinson’s Disease – What is It?

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain. It affects parts of the brain that are associated with normal movement and balance. The disease is caused when nerve cells or neurons in an area of the brain die or become impaired by the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine.

Dopamine enables smooth, coordinated movements.  The classic symptoms of this condition are a tremor or shaking of the hand or other limbs while at rest.  

When actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with the disease, the illness as well as its effects on humans became headline news. But how can we combat it? First, we need to understand what Parkinson’s Disease does to the body.

In addition to motor symptoms such as slowness of movement, tremors, and stiffness, most people develop other health problems related to Parkinson’s. These symptoms are known as non-motor symptoms.

Non-motor symptoms include:

    • Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and irritability
    • Cognitive changes such as problems with focused attention and planning, slowing of thought, language and memory difficulties, personality changes, dementia
    • Hallucinations and delusions
    • Drop in blood pressure when standing, or light-headedness
    • Constipation and a feeling of fullness after eating small amounts
    • Pain
    • Fatigue
    • Vision problems
    • Excessive sweating
    • Increase in dandruff or oily skin
    • Urinary urgency, and frequency
    • Loss of sense of smell
    • Weight gain
    • Impulsive control issues

How is it Acquired?

About 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year affecting about 50 percent more men than women.  No one is sure why people get the disease. Exactly what causes Parkinson’s disease is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible. The average age of diagnosis is 60 years old, however, 5 to 10 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease have “early-onset” disease that begins before the age of 50. Early-onset forms of the disease are often inherited, though not always. People with one or more close relatives who have Parkinson’s disease have an increased risk of developing the disease themselves.

What are the Signs of Parkinson’s Disease?

Early signs of the condition include:

    • Constipation
    • Sleepiness or drowsiness
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Decreased sense of smell
    • REM behavior disorder  (In this the individuals act upon their dreams by kicking, hitting, or talking during a dream or REM sleep).

Parkinson’s disease is not a fatal illness, it is a progressive illness. At early years most patients with adequate response to medications can lead a normal or near-normal life with normal life expectancy.  However, it’s a degenerative disorder that usually progresses until it leaves its patients completely debilitated. The condition usually worsens over an average of 15 years. Once a patient is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, there are many things that they may do to maintain their quality of life and live with Parkinson’s.  They may learn about nutrition; daily living changes; sexual health; freezing (when a body part is unable to move); and safety at home.

The National Parkinson Foundation has programs to support Parkinson’s patients as well as caregivers.  The Foundation has made great strides in Parkinson’s care, research, and community outreach. Donations to the Parkinson’s Foundation go directly to support and develop treatments for the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Your gift can help make life better for people with Parkinson’s.
 Go to to donate.                

The NINDS and the National Institute of Mental Health jointly support two national brain specimen banks. These banks supply research scientists around the world with nervous system tissue from patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders. They need tissue from patients with Parkinson’s disease so that scientists can study and understand the disorder. Those who may be interested in donating should contact: Rashed M. Nagra, Ph.D., Director or contact the Human Brain and Spinal Fluid Resource Center at Neurology Research (127A) W. Los Angeles Healthcare Center.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month

This April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Many organizations use the month of April to bring awareness to the disease. Parkinson’s disease (also known as PD) is a chronic movement disorder that gets worse over time. Over one million people in the US are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause of this disease is unknown and there is no cure; however; there are various treatments available, such as surgery and medication that can help manage some of the symptoms.

Parkinson’s occurs when crucial nerve cells in the brain, called neurons malfunction and die. These neurons are also responsible for producing dopamine, a chemical that affects movement. When the amount of neurons in the brain is reduced, dopamine is also reduced. A person is unable to control movement normally when the amount of dopamine in the brain is decreased.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include slowness of movement, tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face, stiffness of the limbs, and an impaired balance and coordination.

This Saturday, April 30th, the 22nd Parkinson’s Unity Walk will take place in Central Park. Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum is bringing awareness to the disease. Her father was in his late 30s when his family began to notice symptoms of Parkinson’s. Maryum, along with Carol Walton, the CEO of the Parkinson Alliance, will attend the walk. Walton said in an interview with CBS news, “one of the most important messages we are still trying to get out is that if you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, you absolutely must go see a Movement Disorder specialist, not just a neurologist.” Movement disorder specialists have two more years of training in these types of movement disorders. The type of treatment recommended can make a huge difference in the treatment of Parkinson’s.

The Unity Walk not only raises awareness of the disease but also helps to bring more funds for research, as well as provide a day of community and education. Maryum went on to say, “if my dad had something like a Unity Walk when he was first diagnosed, he wouldn’t have felt so alone.”