7 misconceptions about Parkinson's disease!
Published 11 Apr 2022 • By Candice Salomé
For World Parkinson's Disease Day, we wanted to take a look at this complex and often misunderstood disease.
It is estimated that there are around 145,000 people living with Parkinson's in the UK and each year there are about 17,300 new diagnoses in people aged 45 years and above.
Parkinson's can be a heavy burden to carry for patients, who also carry the weight of preconceived notions and misconceptions about their illness.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about Parkinson's?
We unravel the true from the false in our article below!
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disease characterised by the destruction of certain neurons in the brain and by an accumulation of protein clusters that are toxic to nerve cells.
Parkinson's disease is a chronic condition with a slow and progressive course and a slow onset.
The main symptoms of the disease are:
- Muscle stiffness (hypertonia)
- Slowing down of movements (akinesia)
- Tremors occurring mainly at rest.
Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer's disease. Although it is not considered a rare or unknown disease, it is still the subject of many preconceived notions and misconceptions.
What are some common misconceptions about Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson's disease only affects the elderly
False. In popular belief, Parkinson's disease can only affect the elderly. However, most of the time, the disease develops before the age of 60. 20% of those diagnosed are under 50 years old and between 5% and 10% report an early-onset form of the disease, starting before the age of 40.
Parkinson's disease is a rare condition
False. Parkinson's disease is not a rare disease, as it affects nearly 1 person in 2000 worldwide, or 1 in 37 in the UK. Parkinson's UK estimates that around 145,000 people are living with a Parkinson's diagnosis in the UK.
Tremors are the main symptoms of Parkinson's disease
False. Tremors are neither systematic nor are they the main symptoms of Parkinson's disease. The condition exists in different forms and each patient has his or her own symptoms which vary over time.
The symptoms are therefore quite varied: difficulty performing certain movements, joint stiffness, walking problems, digestive and intestinal disorders, etc.
Parkinson's disease cannot be treated
False. Although Parkinson's disease is an incurable disease, it can be treated to improve the quality of life of patients. Patients are prescribed medication to overcome the lack of dopamine.
In addition, for some patients, surgery may be an option: it consists of implanting electrodes in the brain for deep brain stimulation (DBS).
Parkinson's disease does not significantly impact daily life
False. This is only true in the early stages of the disease when the treatment is effective and well tolerated. Indeed, treatments for Parkinson's disease correct the brain's dopamine deficit permanently in the early stages of the disease, but with time fluctuations appear.
At certain times of the day, the deficit is no longer sufficiently corrected and symptoms may reappear.
The unpredictability of the condition can be very distressing for patients, who then find it difficult to plan daily activities, fearing the recurrence of symptoms.
Parkinson's disease affects memory
False. Parkinson's disease is primarily a movement disorder, so it first affects walking and movement, and then cognition.
In Parkinson's disease, short-term memory will be most affected, though long-term memory can also be impacted at a more advanced stage of the disease, whereas in Alzheimer's disease memory problems always remain in the foreground.
People with Parkinson's disease cannot exercise
False. On the contrary, it is recommended to exercise three times a week for about 30 minutes each session. The chosen form of physical activity should, of course, be adapted to the patient.
Sport has a positive influence on the maintenance of balance and motor skills.
In conclusion, fighting against ignorance and preconceived notions is the first step in changing the way people understand Parkinson's disease.
Symptômes et idées reçues : Parkinson, une maladie familière mais mal connue, Sud-Ouest
Dix idées reçues sur la maladie de Parkinson, France TV
Maladie de Parkinson, deuxième maladie neurodégénérative la plus fréquente, INSERM
Maladie de Parkinson : pour en finir avec les idées reçues, 20 Minutes Santé