Chances are, you probably don’t have this day marked down on your calendar, but April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day. Perhaps you’re wondering what relevance this has to you? The truth is that Parkinson’s disease is a far more pervasive illness than you might think. Did you know that 30 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every day? Parkinson’s Australia represents more than 80,000 Australians and their families living with Parkinson’s disease.
World Parkinson’s Day is an opportunity for us all to help improve the lives of the 7 million people suffering from Parkinson’s, all over the world. Help Parkinson’s Australia and the Shake it Up Foundation, partnered with the Michael J Foxx Foundation, raise awareness and much needed research funds to help find a cure.
The 411 On Parkinson’s disease
What exactly is Parkinson’s disease? Simply, it’s a degenerative neurological condition that affects the control of body movements. Common symptoms include tremors (shaking and trembling), muscle rigidity/stiffness, and slowness of movement (bradykinesia).
Parkinson’s is an idiopathic disease. This means that there are no known reasons or causes behind its development, and it can affect anyone. However, Parkinson’s is not considered a genetic disease. It primarily affects those aged 50-75, although 20% of cases are diagnosed in the 30-50 age group.
What Are The Symptoms?
Diagnosis can be difficult, as there is no test available to confirm the disease. Diagnosis is usually based on reviewing a progressive history of deteriorating function. As the disease progresses, functional physical mobility will be affected, making day-to-day independent living tasks that are often taken for granted, such as dressing and eating, difficult. Bodily function may also be compromised and sufferers will have difficulty regulating their body temperature, sleeping, digesting food, and having sexual relations. The emotional impact of a Parkinson’s diagnosis can be highly distressing; over 90% of Parkinson’s sufferers also have depression.
There are social and cognitive impacts as well; social interactions may be impeded by slowed speech and body language. As the disease progresses, it can have a profound impact on cognition, including compromised short term memory, difficulty sequencing, and dementia (in Parkinson’s advanced stages). Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s and the severity of the illness will increase over time. However, many of the symptoms can be treated in the short to medium term with drug therapy.
Effects Of A Parkinson’s Diagnosis
Like any illness, a Parkinson’s diagnosis not only affects the individual diagnosed, but their family and support network as well. The impact of a Parkinson’s diagnosis can put strain on families who are frightened, under pressure, or feeling stressed by the shifting roles and dynamics within their relationships. Those who are feeling anxious, upset or under stress due to Parkinson’s in their lives should be encouraged to reach out to their local Parkinson’s authority or carers network. There are helpful and supportive state-based resources and support groups in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia (which also supports the Northern Territory).
As you can see, Parkinson’s disease can have a profoundly devastating impact, both on those directly affected and on society as a whole. While your family may not be affected by Parkinson’s disease, you can support those who are by raising awareness of this inevitably debilitating disease. The first step is to know more yourself, so on April 11th take a few minutes during your coffee break or lunch hour to learn a little bit more about Parkinson’s disease. Check out the Parkinson’s Australia website; it’s a greatly comprehensive resource for those seeking more information.
Lend A Helping Hand
Parkinson’s disease is more common than prostate, bowel and many other cancers, with thirty people diagnosed every day. Unfortunately, because Parkinson’s is a difficult disease to diagnose and understand, treatment options, support, and research funding are limited. In recent years, the diagnosis of celebrities like Michael J Foxx, Mohammed Ali, and Billy Connolly has helped to raise the profile of Parkinson’s disease around the world.
If you’d like to help raise awareness on World Parkinson’s Day, forward this post to your friends and family to raise their awareness, and donate to Shake It Up Australia.