Top 10 Misconceptions About Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually like stiffness and difficulty with walking, balancing and coordination. In the early stage of Parkinson's disease, the face may exhibit little to no expression. The arm may not swing while walking. 

There are many myths and misconceptions about Parkinson's disease and its treatment. Knowing more about the disease can help optimise your care to yourself or your loved ones and improve your (their) life quality.  

Misconception #1: Parkinson's disease only affects motor movement.

Tremor is the only symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Many symptoms of Parkinson's disease are unrelated to motor movement.

Non-motor symptoms such as

  • Impaired sleep
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cognitive difficulty
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Tingling sensations
  • Slowness in movement
  • Stiffness or rigid muscles
  • Mood disorder
  • Balance disorder

Many of these symptoms are treatable.

Misconception #2: Parkinson's disease only affects older people.

While Parkinson's disease is an age-related condition with an average age of 60, many younger people, including those younger than 50 years old, have been diagnosed with Young-onset Parkinson's disease (YOPD). According to American Parkinson Disease Association, about 10%-20% are under the age of 50 where half of those are diagnosed before 40. Michael J Fox and NBA Brian Grant were diagnosed in their 30s. 

Misconception #3: Everyone experience Parkinson's disease the same way 

It is not the same for everyone. Parkinson's disease has many different motors and non-motor symptoms that fluctuate and differs from person to person. 

Misconception #4: Drugs wear off after five years

Many misconceptions that Levodopa, a drug commonly used to treat Parkinson's disease, stopped working after five years. Levodopa has been shown to work for many years, even decades. In the later stage of Parkinson however, a higher dose might be required, and one may develop side effects such as twitching, called dyskinesia. Besides, postponing treatment will only reduce the quality of life.

Misconception #5: There is nothing you can do after a Parkinson's diagnosis 

There is a lot besides medication that can help with Parkinson's disease. Exercise and staying active can help and manage the motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's diseases. Finding community, family and friends are essential to help to manage the symptoms as well. 

Misconception #6: All Parkinson's symptoms are visible

While there are visible symptoms of Parkinson's disease, there are non-visible symptoms as well.

Non-visible symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty in swallowing or chewing
  • Increased salivation
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Fatigue 

Misconception #7: If someone shows no visible symptoms of Parkinson's, they are doing well

This is a very common misconception. Not all symptoms of Parkinson's disease are visible, and also it can fluctuate from time to time. The symptoms might appear mild at one point in time, but it may not always the case. It is important to keep track of the symptoms with the medication time and dosage for the doctor to optimise the medication schedule. 

Misconception #8: a genetic mutation causes Parkinson's disease

About 15 to 25% of Parkinson's patients have a family member who had the disease, but most patients do not have a family history. There is no definite answer to what has caused Parkinson's disease for now. However, researchers believe that both genetic and external factors lead to the development of Parkinson's disease, but there is no single definitive genetic mutation. Also, even if a person has a mutation linked to Parkinson's disease, this does not mean the person will get it. 

Misconception #9: Medication can speed up or slow down your symptoms.

There is no study linking medication with an increase in Parkinson's disease progression. A study published in the National Library of Medicine shows that Levodopa helps manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease instead of those in the placebo group. 

Misconception #10: Parkinson's disease is fatal

Although the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease is devastating, it is not a death sentence. Parkinson's disease is not a direct killer like stroke or heart attack. It, however, will reduce your quality of life. The patients have to stay active and positive. In the later stage of Parkinson's, it is important to stay up to date with checkups not to miss any complication. 

It is important to update regular check-in with your consulting doctors, especially when taking multiple medications such as prochlorperazine, metoclopramide and others, as these medicines may worsen Parkinson's disease. 


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