April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, with April 1st being Parkinson’s Awareness Day. This month is the perfect time to focus on the disease that affects 10 million people worldwide. Because I’m now being evaluated for this terrible disease, I want to understand it.
What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson.org states that it is “A neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominantly the dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.” So, the neurons are gradually losing their structure or function in the brain. You’ve probably heard of dopamine, and it is lacking in Parkinson’s.
Many conditions/diseases have flares and then times when there are less symptoms. Parkinson’s doesn’t work that way. But, it progresses slowly and gradually. Early diagnosis gives the patient opportunity to use the treatments: medications, physical therapy, exercise, quality sleep, and good nutrition.
There are many symptoms and not everyone will experience all of these. Sometimes the first sign is acting out dreams. This is when the patient moves, kicks, punches, or screams during their sleep. This is called REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. This is something that I’ve recently experienced and it is very scary to my family.
When thinking about Parkinson’s Disease, we tend to think of the tremor or shaking. There are many other symptoms and life will be different for every patient. This is true of so many diseases that I deal with. If I do have Parkinson’s, I’ll need to expand my health care team even more.