World Parkinsons Disease DayAccording to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, one million people in the United States currently have Parkinson’s disease (PD) and there are between 50,000-60,000 newly diagnosed cases of PD each year. The Center for Disease Control rated complications from Parkinson’s disease as the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. Worldwide, it is estimated that four to six million people suffer from the condition. Right now, there is no cure for Parkinson’s. What can we do to battle the disease?

Today, April 11, is World Parkinson’s Day! Celebrated annually on the birthday of Dr. James Parkinson, for whom the disease is named, World Parkinson’s Day is dedicated to advocating for people with Parkinson’s disease, increasing awareness of the debilitating neurodegenerative disease, and driving new research and treatment initiatives. 

Though this degenerative disorder of the central nervous system is most commonly associated with the elderly, an increasing number of younger people are being diagnosed with PD each year. So, are more young people getting Parkinson’s or is the diagnosis criteria changing? In a recent Google Hangout session discussing PD , Monica Kurtis, MD, Neurologist and Movement Disorders Specialist, relayed that one of the major challenges with identifying Parkinson’s disease is that the diagnosis is clinical; there is no set test, no neuroimaging or genetic markers that lead to an easy diagnosis. Instead, factors like observations during office visits, patient accounts of symptoms, patient’s response to medications, and ruling out other causes contribute to a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Because of this, patients can go a long time before they receive a proper diagnosis. According to Kurtis, the increase in diagnoses of early-onset PD is not because PD is becoming more prevalent in younger patients, but rather because physicians are learning to identify it earlier.

Though there is no cure, there are treatments to help manage symptoms of Parkinson’s. It’s important to diagnose as early as possible, so treatments can begin and patients can achieve the peace of mind that comes with identifying “what’s wrong with them.” Read on so you can help identify Parkinson’s and communicate important information to a physician:

Four Primary Symptoms of Parkinson’s

  • Rigidity – Stiffness
  • Bradykinesia – Slowness, particularly in gait, that makes activities that were once easy and effortless (like walking) increasingly challenging
  • Tremor – A resting tremor (like hands shaking when they are not in use)
  • Instability – Lack of balance

Additional Symptoms and Potential Indicators

  • Trouble Sleeping – Difficulty falling asleep
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – Physically acting out vivid, often unpleasant dreams with abnormal vocal sounds and movements during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep
  • Constipation – Having a bowel movement less than 3 times a week or difficulty passing stools
  • Hypertension – Fainting or dizzy spells
  • Cognition – Issues with focusing, memory, or planning activities
  • Depression and Anxiety

For more information and specific resources related to PD, or to find out how you can get involved and help spread awareness, visit these sites: