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April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month

What You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, 10 million people worldwide are affected by the disease.  Of that number: 

  • One million people in the U.S. are currently living with Parkinson’s disease. 

  • An estimated 4% of people with Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed before age 50. 

  • In Illinois, 37,570 people are living with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that mainly affects the dopamine-producing neurons in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra. Symptoms generally develop slowly over years and differ from one person to another. People with Parkinson’s disease may experience: 

  • Tremors, generally at rest and described as a pill-rolling tremor in the hands, with the thumb and index fingers moving simultaneously and rubbing against each other; other forms of tremors are also possible 

  • Slowness and scarcity of movement (called bradykinesia and hypokinesia)

  • Limb stiffness (rigidity)  

  • Gait and balance problems (postural instability)

In addition to movement-related (or motor) symptoms, some Parkinson’s symptoms may be unrelated to movement. These non-motor symptoms often impact people with Parkinson’s disease more than motor symptoms. Examples of non-motor symptoms include: 

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Apathy  

  • Hallucinations 

  • Constipation

  • Orthostatic hypotension

Although there’s no cure, treatment options vary and include medications, lifestyle adjustments and surgery. While Parkinson’s disease itself isn’t fatal, disease complications can be serious. Nevertheless, it’s possible to have a good to great quality of life with Parkinson’s disease. Working with your doctor and following recommended therapies are essential to successful treatment.

Another beneficial treatment for people with Parkinson’s disease is exercise that promotes functional body movement and balance control. Participants are advised to seek out classes that accommodate individual strengths. Examples include: 

  • Chair Yoga – freestyle class format 

  • Bands and Balance – freestyle class format

  • Rock Steady Boxing – a national program that works to improve hand-eye coordination, footwork, core strength and balance, based on individual testing scores

For more information on Parkinson’s Disease, read here.

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