Discovering little-known facts about Parkinson's disease

Even if you think you know everything about Parkinson's disease, the numbers are still stunning.

More than one million people are living with it, and 60,000 will be diagnosed this year alone.

Even worse is all the people who don't even know they have it.

Roberta Perkins sports some nifty handiwork, which is tough to do when you've been battling Parkinson’s disease for the past 13 years.

“Everybody expects you're going to shake, that's it. I didn't have tremors,” says Roberta.

One of the many secrets of Parkinson’s: it's far more than a simple movement disorder. The real symptoms of Parkinson's are anxiety, depression, sweating, erectile dysfunction and bladder problems.

"I refer to them as invisible symptoms of Parkinson's disease, those are the worst symptoms for patients and they're often overlooked by family members and physicians because you can't see them,” says Dr. Melissa Nirenberg, a doctor from Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell College in New York.

The next secret is strange side effects. Some common Parkinson’s medications can actually spark addictions.

"They're compulsively gambling, compulsively shopping or buying, compulsively eating and there's even a something called "hobby-ism" where a person's hobby takes over," says Dr. Nirenberg.

Roberta's problems were cleaning and eating. She gained 25 pounds.

Another secret: people with Parkinson's have a higher melanoma risk and should see a dermatologist regularly. Other recent studies show Parkinson's ups the risk of breast cancer.

Finally, there is exercise. Reports show it improves symptoms and may slow the progression of the disease. As for Roberta, she's got her own secret for survival.

"I don't feel that I'm sick in any way. I do more in a day than people who don't have Parkinson's," she says.

A strong woman who refuses to let her disease win.

Here's a question -- true or false: only older people get Parkinson's?

The answer: false.

5% to 10% of cases occur in people under 40.

Another misconception is that Parkinson's is fatal.

REPORT #1690

BACKGROUND: Parkinson's disease, or PD, belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. More than a million people are living with this disease in the United States and 60,000 will be diagnosed this year alone.
According to, there are many symptoms that act as a red flag for Parkinson's. Some of these symptoms include: muscle rigidity (it may become harder to swing your arms and face muscle may become tight and hard to move), tremors (usually in the hands or legs), changes in gait (small steps become the norm and it is harder to pick up your feet when you walk) and changes in speech (drooling and choking begin to happen more frequently when trying to talk and swallow). At present, there is no cure for Parkinson's Disease, but a variety of medications provide dramatic relief from the symptoms according to the National Institute or Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The most common medication is Levodopa, which dramatically helps many of the most disabling motor symptoms.

One of the many secrets of PD is that it's much more than just a movement disorder. According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation News and Review, the real symptoms are anxiety, depression, sweating, erectile dysfunction and bladder problems.
Myth: PD can flare up unexpectedly. The truth is that although symptoms may fluctuate throughout the day, the progression is very slow.
Secret: Compared to people who do not have PD, people with PD have been shown to have a higher risk of melanoma, which is the most serious form of skin cancer.
Myth: You can blame PD for everything. Although we want to, certain symptoms like fever, headache and loss of strength should not be attributed to PD.
Secret: Some PD medications can actually spark addictions like compulsive gambling, shopping and eating.
Myth: Only older people get Parkinson's. Actually about 5 to 10 percent of cases occur in people under 40.
Secret: Reports show that exercise can actually slow the progression of PD.
Myth: PD is fatal. Although complications can lead to death, most people live 20 to 30 years with the disease.

For More Information, Contact:
Parkinson's Disease Foundation
(800) 457-6676

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