If you have just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s or know somebody who has, you’ve probably got a lot of questions and concerns. Here’s some advice about the condition, and where to get support.
What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which part of the brain becomes progressively damaged over many years. It is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the ‘substantia nigra’. This leads to a reduction in the amount of a chemical called dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body and a reduction in dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s
The three main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:
- tremor (involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body)
- slow movement
- stiff and inflexible muscles.
The symptoms someone has and how quickly the condition develops will differ from one person to the next. Parkinson’s can cause some people’s hands and bodies to shake. This can make everyday activities, such as eating, getting dressed, or using a phone or computer, difficult or frustrating.
As well as difficulties with movement, people with Parkinson’s might experience other symptoms such as tiredness, pain, depression, anxiety, problems with memory and constipation. These are often referred to as ‘non-motor symptoms’ and can have an impact on people’s day-to-day lives.
Around one person in every 500 has Parkinson’s – that’s about 127,000 people in the UK.
Most people who get Parkinson’s are aged 50 or over, but younger people can get it too.
Parkinson’s is not infectious and doesn’t usually run in families. It is more common in men. For most people, their life expectancy won’t change much because of Parkinson’s.
Medicines to manage symptoms
Although there’s currently no cure, a range of medicines and treatments are available to manage many of the symptoms, and your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse (if you have one) will help you find the best ones for you. While someone may be helped by one medicine, it may not work for others. Some people may need larger doses or a combination of medications, while others may need to take smaller doses but more often.
As time goes on, people may need to change their medication. Physiotherapy, speech and language and occupational therapy can also help. Surgery may also be an option for some people whose symptoms have stopped responding to medication.
How Parkinson’s affects someone can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour – symptoms that may be noticeable one day may not be a problem the next.
Although at times life can be difficult, many people with Parkinson’s continue to lead active, fulfilling lives.
It’s important to do what you can to stay physically and mentally healthy if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Regular exercise is particularly important in helping relieve muscle stiffness, improving your mood and relieving stress. There are many activities you can do to help keep yourself fit, ranging from more active sports like tennis and cycling, to less strenuous activities such as walking, gardening and yoga.
You should also try to eat a balanced diet containing all the food groups to give your body the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.
Everyone with a long-term condition such as asthma is encouraged to get a yearly flu jab each autumn. The pneumococcal vaccination is also usually recommended, which is a one-off injection that protects against a serious chest infection called pneumococcal pneumonia.
Where can I find out more?
If you would like to speak to someone about Parkinson’s you can call Parkinson’s UK – the main Parkinson’s support and research charity in the UK – which has a free, confidential helpline – on 0808 800 0303.The helpline is staffed by specialist nurses and advisers who you can talk to about any aspect of the condition.
You can find out more about Parkinson’s and the support Parkinson’s UK offers – including a UK-wide network of information and support workers and local groups – by visiting https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/
You can also look at Parkinson’s UK’s booklets, Parkinson’s and you, Living with Parkinson’s or The carer’s guide. The booklets are available to download as PDFs from its website or you can order a paper copy.
To order, visit parkinsons.org.uk/publications, call 0845 121 2354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring Chicken also has a wide range of products and solutions to help overcome many of the obstacles presented by the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Whether it’s devices to help with dressing, provide a little steadiness for tremors or medicine reminders Spring Chicken has a directory of some of the best solutions available to buy here.
Any information of a medical nature on this website is given to provide a general understanding of a medical condition or conditions.
No patient/doctor relationship is to be inferred and you should seek medical advice from a qualified practitioner.
Nothing on this site should be used as a substitute for competent advice from a qualified medical practitioner.