Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that causes slowness of movement, tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Depictions of the disease in popular culture are grim, and nobody wants to be told they have a disorder that’s associated with the loss of motor skills and possible cognitive decline.
Caused by a lack of dopamine in the brain, about 90,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year, and the risk increases with age. Among those living with the disease, actor Michael J. Fox is credited with significantly raising mainstream awareness about Parkinson’s after he revealed his diagnosis in 1991.
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, new medications and treatment advances such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery are helping more patients than ever to better manage the disease and lead productive lives.
“I have seen so many patients thrive and flourish, buoyed by incredible innovations in medicines, DBS surgery and physical therapy that exist today,” said Saulena Shafer, DO, director of Hoag’s Salsbury Family Movement Disorders Program, part of the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute.
Dr. Shafer’s colleague Sandeep Thakkar, D.O., agrees. “After I tell them that I understand, I let them know, ‘There is hope. You have Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s doesn’t have you.’”
While tremors are the most recognizable symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, there are other symptoms worth noting. If you’ve noticed that you have two or more of the signs of Parkinson’s, make an appointment with a Hoag physician at www.hoag.org.
- Tremor: Slight shaking or trembling in your hand, finger, thumb or chin while you are at rest.
- Trouble Moving or Walking: Stiffness in your body, shoulder, hips, arms or legs that doesn’t go away as you move.
- Loss of Smell: You no longer smell certain foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice.
- Small Handwriting: Your handwriting has gotten much smaller or the words are crowded together.
- A Soft or Low Voice: People tell you that your voice is very soft or that you sound breathy and/or hoarse.
When evaluating these symptoms collectively, consider if they might be side effects of medications you’re taking or caused by an illness or an injury.
For more information about the Salsbury Family Movement Disorders Program, visit hoag.org/movement-disorders.