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Are you newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s?

“You have Parkinson’s.” Hearing these words from your doctor must have started an avalanche of emotions and thoughts in your mind, ranging from disbelief to sadness to disappointment and fear. It might be a moment you will never forget.

Being diagnosed with a chronic condition can make you worry, especially with all the information available about potential changes in your body and difficulties with daily activities you may start to experience. A variety of questions would have risen in your mind about how it would be to live with or manage life with a chronic illness. You may have started asking yourself – “WHY ME?”

How can I deal with my diagnosis?

Here are some of the common problems faced by people with Parkinson’s (PwPs) who have been recently diagnosed-

You are unsure & afraid of telling your loved ones about your diagnosis, not knowing how they would react.

Remember that support from others is a factor that will have a huge positive impact on your journey ahead with Parkinson’s. Sharing your diagnosis with close family members is important and will help you deal better.

Here is one way you could tell your loved ones or someone about your illness – “I have Parkinson’s which is a neurological (occurring in the brain)

illness which mainly affects my movements (and /or any other symptoms you may have). However, I am taking steps to manage the condition, with the help of medications and exercise prescribed by my doctor. There are a number of therapies and activities available to help fight Parkinson’s”

You may experience a range of emotions like denial, anger, fear, sadness, disappointment, etc. You may isolate yourself from your family, friends and loved ones after being diagnosed with this condition. You might feel that there is no one who can understand what you are going through.

Such a reaction is normal and very common when a person is diagnosed with a chronic condition. It helps to be honest and share with your loved ones about what you’re going through, what your concerns are and how they can help you. You may seek professional help from a counsellor who will help you cope with the diagnosis. Remember that there are many like you living with Parkinson’s who are going through the same thing you are. A local support group can help you meet other PwPs.

You may feel helpless about the condition and worried about what will happen in the future.

Consult your neurologist about your medication and treatment options. It is important to remember that there are resources and support available to help you manage Parkinson’s and help you live well moving forward. At PDMDS, we conduct support group sessions where we educate you about the condition and how to deal with it, provide various therapies and also create a space for support and interaction between PwPs and their caregivers.

The more information you and others have about Parkinson’s, the more you will be prepared to manage the condition going forward. This will also increase the awareness about Parkinson’s.

Click here to learn about Parkinson’s.

What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease is a neuro-degenerative condition. The term “neuro-degenerative” means that it is a condition involving the degeneration of the neurons (cells) in the brain that progresses over time.

So what happens in the brain in Parkinson’s?

Our brain has certain chemicals called neurotransmitters that send messages to different parts of the body in order to control our body functions and movements. In a small area in the brain called the substantia nigra, an important neurotransmitter called Dopamine is produced.

In Parkinson’s, there is a loss of Dopamine producing cells in the substantia nigra. The symptoms of Parkinson’s begin when there is a reduction of around 70-80% of the dopamine producing cells.

As Parkinson’s progresses, the amount of dopamine in the brain further decreases, increasing problems with movement control, errors in planning of a movement, muscular stiffness, tremor and mood.

As someone who has been recently diagnosed with or introduced to Parkinson’s, here are some important points to remember about the condition:

  • Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s at present, it’s symptoms can be managed effectively. Excellent research is ongoing to find a cure for Parkinson’s.
  • It is a life altering condition, but it is not life threatening, meaning that the condition itself does not cause death/ is not fatal.
  • Parkinson’s progresses slowly over time. It is difficult to estimate the rate of progression, the level of severity and the types of symptoms as Parkinson’s affects every individual differently.
  • Medications, exercise, a healthy lifestyle and allied therapies have proven to be effective in managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s and maintaining the quality of life, making it possible to live independently and productively.
  • As the condition progresses, it is important to visit your doctor regularly so that the condition can be monitored and timely adjustments in medication can be made.

What causes Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s is often referred to as “Idiopathic Parkinson’s” meaning that the underlying
cause of the condition is unclear. The reason for the loss of Dopamine- producing cells has yet to be determined. There are, however, many risk factors that that can increase the chances of developing Parkinson’s.

Risk factors

Even though there are no known causes of Parkinson’s, there are certain factors that are believed to potentially increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s-

  • Age -The single biggest risk factor for developing Parkinson’s is advancing age, especially over the age of 60.
  • Gender– Men have a slightly increased risk compared to women.
  • Family History– A few research studies have found out that an individual with a first degree relative with Parkinson’s may have a higher risk of developing the Parkinson’s. Around 15-25% of people with Parkinson’s (PwPs) do report having a first relative with Parkinson’s.
  • Genetic– Variations occur in our gene structures and functions that can put us at risk for certain health conditions. Parkinson’s is associated with variations in genes like LRRK2, PARK7, PINK1, PRKN, etc.
  • Drugs– The history of drug- induced Parkinson’s (DIP) parallels that of the use of antipsychotics. Gastrointestinal prokinetic drugs, including metoclopramide, levosulpiride, clebopride, itopride, and domperidone, have also been associated with DIP.
  • Head injury– An increased risk of Parkinson’s is associated with trauma to the brain.
  • Environmental risks– Exposure to herbicides and pesticides may increase the risk of Parkinson’s. Exposure to metals like manganese have led to the development of Parkinsonian features.

Click here to learn more about the stages in Parkinson’s.

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