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Nova Scotia Seniors – Parkinson’s Disease

Posted Jan 10, 2017

Parkinson’s is a slow progressive disease of the nervous system that causes people to lose control of their muscles. The dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain, usually produced naturally by our bodies stops being produced when the cells that produce it die.

Statistics show that about 1 in 250 people over the age of 40, and about 1 in 100 people aged 65 or older, are affected by Parkinson’s. Occasionally children can be affected. Parkinson’s is more common in men than in women.

Parkinson’s is not a fatal condition, but as it progresses can major require lifestyle changes. Proper monitoring to try and slow down, and in some cases halt, the onset of symptoms.

It’s difficult and takes time for a full diagnosis of Parkinson’s because symptoms can mimic common conditions associated with aging, illness or injury in the beginning stages. Examples of early symptoms are as follows:

  • Tremors in the fingers, hands, legs, lips, etc – common in early stages
    • However: These can also occur after heavy exercise, illness or as a result of medication
  • Sudden changes to handwriting, letters are smaller, words are more crowded
    • Normal: Writing can change as we age – stiff hands, fingers or our vision  changes – This happens over time and not suddenly
  • Loss of smell – cannot smell certain foods the same way – bananas, licorice
    • Normal: Change of smell can be affected by stuffy nose or injury – usually returns but not always, if you experience prolonged absence of the sense of smell contact your doctor
  • Trouble sleeping – thrashing, punching, kicking, falling out of bed
    • Normal: It is common to toss and turn rather than sleep from time to time, particularly as we grow older
  • Trouble moving or walking without obvious reasons – feet “stuck” to floor
    • Normal: Anyone who has suffered an injury or who has arthritis may also have the same symptoms, however – the difference is that this is happening without explanation
  • Constipation without explanation
    • Normal: Our diets, levels of dehydration and some medications can cause the same problem – but without explanation, you may want to check it out
  • Soft or low voice as a change to your normal speaking voice
    • Normal: We all suffer changes to our normal voices when we have laryngitis or a bad cold but it should clear up as the cold does
  • Masked Face – is a serious, mad look on face even when not mad, a blank stare
    • Normal: Certain medications can create this condition but it will clear up once we are off the medication
  • Fainting or Dizziness when standing up
    • Normal: This could also be a sign of low blood pressure or a side effect of medication
  • Stooping, Leaning or slouching when you stand
    • Normal: This can happen with injury or illness as well

If you are diagnosed with this disease, there are ways of slowing its progress. Firstly, you need to work a plan with your doctor, which may include referral to a neurologist, physical, occupational and speech therapists. As always, exercise plays an important role in slowing down the symptoms.

These symptoms are meant as a guideline and you need not assume that if you have them, you have Parkinson’s. If you have any doubts, see your doctor and express your concerns. He/She will get you on the right track.

Check out these helpful links for more information:

Parkinson Canada

CBC Health segment on Parkinson’s