April marks National Parkinson's Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of Parkinson's disease and its impact on individuals, families, and communities. Approximately 64,000 Floridians have Parkinson’s disease, making Florida’s state population the highest percentage diagnosed with this disease. By sharing knowledge and resources, we can improve understanding of the challenges faced by people with Parkinson's and work toward improving their quality of life.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that begins when certain nerve cells in the brain aren’t functioning normally. These nerve cells control body movements, so abnormally functioning nerve cells cause people to make hysterical and unintended movements. When Parkinson’s disease occurs, it will typically worsen as time progresses – but this usually happens slowly and takes many years.
This disease is caused by low levels of dopamine, which is a brain chemical that helps control movement. These low levels happen when nerve cells form in the part of the brain that breaks down dopamine. Scientists are still studying potential causes because the origin of this breakdown is unknown.
Parkinson’s disease can cause a range of symptoms. The most common of these is tremors, an involuntary twitching movement that usually affects the hands and head but may happen in the feet or torso. Other symptoms are stiff muscles, slow movement, problems with balance or walking, and pain. Not everyone affected by Parkinson’s will have the same symptoms, but in many patients the disease will affect every muscle in the body as time goes on.
To diagnose this disease, your doctor will look for symptoms and examine your past health records. Doctors also perform a neurological exam, which sees how well your nerves work.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, If you are diagnosed with the disorder, you may not need treatment while your symptoms are mild. Treatments such as medicines and occupational, physical, or speech therapy can all lessen the impacts of this disease. More extensive treatments, including brain surgery and deep brain stimulations, are also options.
Although there’s no cure, getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease doesn’t mean your world has ended. Many people continue to enjoy their lives and make valuable contributions after being diagnosed. World-renowned actor, Michael J. Fox, and CHP Humanitarian Award recipient, Duncan Postma, are a few of the people who refused to let Parkinson’s disease stop them from doing what they love. After receiving the diagnosis, Fox continued acting and went on to launch the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Postma also pursued his passions, and continued to play tennis, travel, read, and go hiking.
National Parkinson’s Awareness Month is an important time to educate people about the disease. If you think you are at risk or experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s, consult your doctor. Capital Health Plan is passionate about keeping community members safe and healthy. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses, visit www.capitalhealth.com.