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What is it like living with Parkinson’s?

There are a number of misconceptions and myths about Parkinson’s disease that have lead to a lot of misunderstanding about the disease. It’s important for us to understand that living with Parkinson’s will be different for each individual, and the way their symptoms appear will differ.

Many people associate Parkinson’s disease with trembling hands, but it is not only a movement disorder. While symptoms can include muscle rigidity, tremor, postural instability and slowness of movement, there are a number of non-movement symptoms. These include pain, sensory changes, changes in the gastrointestinal system, depression and problems with memory, thinking and sleep that can impact the life of the person with Parkinson’s and their carer.

The average age of Parkinson’s diagnosis is 65 years. While Parkinson’s is often seen as an older person’s disease, younger people can be diagnosed with Parkinson’s as well. Some have even received a diagnosis before the age of 40. In fact, 20% of people living with Parkinson’s are of working age and 38 people are being diagnosed every day in Australia.

Shake it Up Australia Foundation have a great number of resources and videos available online about living with Parkinson’s disease. They have also released the following misconceptions about living with the disease.

Common myths about Parkinson’s  

Everyone with Parkinson’s experiences the same symptoms

Each person with Parkinson’s is affected differently and the rate of progression varies greatly. Some experience tremors as their first symptom while others never see a tremor or don’t for many years. Each person will have a different combination of symptoms at different levels of intensity.

All Parkinson’s symptoms are visible

Many Parkinson’s symptoms aren’t obvious to other people and in many ways, it can be an invisible disease for those that don’t have obvious physical symptoms. Fatigue, apathy and depression are all common Parkinson’s symptoms that can be in some ways the most challenging part of the disease.

Symptoms are the same from day to day

Parkinson’s symptoms can vary daily and even hourly. While Parkinson’s can be treated with medication, this can often wear off before it is time for another dose. Symptoms such as fatigue, mood and sleep patterns can be unpredictable.

There’s nothing you can do after a Parkinson’s diagnosis

While Parkinson’s has no cure, there are some lifestyle changes and treatments that can improve symptoms.

Exercise may help improve coordination and balance issues and can also help with mood, fatigue and other non-Parkinson’s symptoms. Surrounding yourself with a good team of specialists can also help you get the right treatment plan and help you live better with Parkinson’s.

For more information about Parkinson’s, visit Shake It Up Australia Foundation or Parkinson’s Australia.

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