Young Onset Parkinson's disease, or Early Onset Parkinson's...Movement Disorders

What is it?

It is the same disease that people think of when they find out that someone older, say in there 70’s or 80’s gets; it has the same devastating effect’s on the individual and their family. The only difference is we are younger and likely to be a young mother, father, sister or brother in the prime of our life, trying to work and raise a family. It is called Young Onset Parkinson’s because most people are under the age of 55 when diagnosed.

Being diagnosed with Young Parkinson’s is devastating. We are younger, but in this case, it is not an attribute, in fact, quite the opposite can be true. There seems to be a notion among the general population, that if you have Young Onset Parkinson’s disease or Early Onset Parkinson's, also known as a Movement Disorder; the disabling effects of the disease will not affect you until you are older. The fact is the effects seen from the disease are immediate. Many individuals become physically disabled within 2-10 yrs of being diagnosed. It does not matter whether you are young or old; Parkinson’s disease affects the part of the brain that controls your body’s movement. Drugs used to control symptoms in Parkinson’s disease, like Sinemet, Mirapex and Requip have to be increased over time because they lose their effectiveness.

As your body builds up a tolerance to the drugs, the dosage will have to be increased in order to control the same symptoms that were being controlled by the lower dose. When you increase the dosage, you are likely to experience side effects; the side effects need to be counteracted with other drugs. Eventually, the side effects can worsen over time to become just as debilitating as the disease itself. Many Parkinson’s patients cannot tolerate the drugs at all. The drugs are not a cure; they only relieve some of the symptoms. At this time, no treatment has been shown to slow or stop the progression of this disease.

There is no cure.    

But there is Hope......Hope for the future

Parkinson’s disease

  • In the early stages of the disease, four major features characterize it:

  • Resting tremor of a limb (shaking with the limb at rest) tremor stops when movement starts

  • Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)

  • Rigidity (stiffness, increased resistance to passive movement) of the limbs or trunk

  • Poor balance (postural instability)

Patients may first realize something is wrong when they develop a tremor in a limb; when the limb is at rest, movements are slowed and activities take longer to perform; or they experience stiffness and have balance problems. Initially, symptoms are a combination of tremor, bradykinesia, rigidity and postural instability. Symptoms typically begin in one limb, say an arm, hand, leg, or foot on one side of the body and gradually spread over time to the other side.

Most people live with symptoms of one or more of the above characteristics for a period of time before seeking medical attention. We generally think; it must be a tic or twitch and it will eventually go away.

When we do seek medical attention and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is made, we are given a list of medications, which can help with the physical symptoms and are told that this is a progressive degenerative disease with no cure. Literature is given to the patient on the medications available, along with their side effects and another pamphlet is given to you telling you what you can expect in the degenerative process of your body. The doctor usually recommends that you start taking one of the available medications to subdue the symptoms. These drugs do not stop or halt the disease they only help to subdue the physical symptoms to a small degree and your body and mind continues to degenerate. We are sent home with no resources for nutrition or physical therapy.

Over time, initial symptoms become worse. A mild tremor becomes more bothersome and more noticeable. Difficulties may develop with everyday activities, like answering the phone with the affected limb or just trying to hold steady while reading a book. Bradykinesia (slowness in movement) becomes a significant problem and the most disabling symptom. Slowness can interfere with daily routines; getting dressed, shaving or showering may take much effort. Mobility is impaired and difficulty develops in getting into or out of a chair or a car, or turning over in bed. Walking may become slower. The voice may become soft and monotonous. A disturbance of balance may lead to falls. Automatic movements, such as arm swing when walking, are reduced.

As the disease progresses, you may notice more changes in your body that you are not able to control. Tremors become more predominant; muscle spasms, muscle contractions become more pronounced, and you may notice that you are more tired than you used to be. You may also notice that you feel overwhelmed more easily. Multi tasking that used to be second nature might now feel overwhelming. Your memory may be affected, you may not be able to write legibly or have trouble spelling words that you used to know effortlessly.

Symptoms may originally be restricted to one limb, but will typically spread over time to the other limb on the same side. They eventually progress to the other side of the body.      Continue part 3



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