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Parkinson’s Disease: Myths vs. Facts

Medically reviewed by Ricky Chen, MD on February 15, 2017Written by Mary Baucom on February 15, 2017

Parkinson’s is sometimes perceived as a mystifying disease. The stigma surrounding it has led to numerous misconceptions. This list debunks the top five myths about Parkinson’s.

1. Myth: Parkinson’s only affects you physically

Some of the earliest warning signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremors, loss of mobility, and poor balance — all of which are motor symptoms. But nonmotor symptoms, including change in speech and personality, increased urinary frequency and urgency, and cognitive impairments, are also symptoms of the disease.

2. Myth: Only older people can be diagnosed with Parkinson’s

While the majority of those with Parkinson’s are over the age of 62, it’s entirely possible to be diagnosed earlier in life. Young-onset Parkinson’s occurs when an individual receives a Parkinson’s diagnosis before they turn 50. It’s believed that only about 2 percent of the 1 million people with Parkinson’s are younger than 40.

3. Myth: It’s a predictable disease

If Parkinson’s were predictable, then it would likely be curable too. Similar to many other progressive diseases, Parkinson’s varies from person to person. How fast the disease progresses and how often symptoms are experienced are different for each individual with Parkinson’s. Alongside this, there’s no way to predict who will receive a diagnosis.

4. Myth: Besides taking any prescribed medications, you can’t do anything to help with treatment

Although any lifestyle modifications you make won’t change your Parkinson’s diagnosis, eating healthy and exercising can be beneficial treatment add-ons. The Mayo Clinic recommends a well-rounded, balanced diet full of fiber and wholesome foods. Staying active can help you maintain a sense of independence, as well as increase your muscle strength and flexibility. Ask your doctor for specific eating and exercise recommendations.

5. Myth: Once you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s, there’s little to no hope

Parkinson’s may be a progressive disease, and it may be incurable, but that’s no reason to miss out on life. Researchers are looking for advanced treatments to stop the disease and even prevent it from happening in the first place. For example, in June 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Brio Neurostimulation System. This deep brain stimulation device sends pulses through the body to reduce symptoms, such as tremors. Other advanced treatments are also in the works, so the promise for a cure is on the horizon.

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