What should everyone know about Parkinson's disease?



What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a common neurological disease caused by a decrease in a brain substance called dopamine and is characterized by a slowing down in movements. It is linked to aging and longevity: as more people are living longer the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease will double in the next decades. It is a debilitating disease that requires medical attention from the early stages.

Which symptoms have the most impact on the patient's quality of life?
When people think of Parkinson’s disease they often think of tremor, which is the most visible symptom. However, tremor is not the most disablingsymptom. The symptoms that most contribute to loss of autonomy include changes in gait, cognition, behavior, speech, and swallowing. These are the factors that most contribute to the loss of quality of life for patients, and that most overwhelm those who, in the more advanced stages, end up caring for these patients.

How can the impact of Parkinson’s disease be minimized?
To minimize the impact of the disease it should be treated using a multidisciplinary approach that includes movement disorder specialist (neurologist), physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, and nurses. Other health professionals such as psychiatrists, internists, cardiologists, urologists, cardiologists, and orthopaedists work in close collaboration, providing support whenever necessary.

What are the main fears and difficulties reported by those who live with this disease?
The main fear shared by patients is the risk of the disease worsening in the future and of being dependent on others. One of the most asked—and sometimes unspoken—questions is what will happen in the future and what to expect.

What is the role of the family and caregivers?
Although it is possible for a patient to remain active and autonomous for many years, with time many patients experience a loss of autonomy and become dependent on others. In this way, family and caregiver support is extremely important. Parkinson's disease is dynamic and progressive, therefore, the care and needs are different throughout the progression of the disease. At the early stage, it is important to promote autonomy and a healthy lifestyle. In more advanced stages, caregivers play a key role in providing stability, daily care, preventing complications such as falls, and assisting with food and medication.

For more information about Parkinson’s disease make an appointment with a movement disorders specialist.