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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mistaken Beliefs About Parkinson's Disease

When members of the general public see a person with Parkinson's disease, especially those with pronounced symptoms they come to a whole host of conclusions about that person without any knowledge of them or their lifestyle. Because of this there are many mistaken beliefs about the disease which really need to be rectified is Parkinson's sufferers are going to lead a normal life.

For example many people believe that Parkinson's disease affects the whole brain so that mental functioning is compromised. Some of the symptoms of late Parkinson's disease include speech problems, spasmodic body and face movements, drooling and possibly problems with memory but this does not mean that Parkinson's sufferers have lost their mind or are imbeciles. The mind of a Parkinson's sufferer continues to work perfectly well and they are capable of understanding everything you say to them. Their only problem is that they experience difficulties communicating back and so if an alternative method of communication is devised you can still hold an intelligent conversation with any Parkinson's disease sufferer.

Similarly if a person says 'my partner has Parkinson's disease' people will assume that

a) the persons partner is old and
b) the persons partner is totally reliant on somebody else

Both of these assumptions are very naïve and ultimately wrong. Although Parkinson's disease does affect people over the age of 50 more than those under the age of 50, it is not exclusively an 'old person' disease. Early-onset Parkinson's is relatively rare (around 10% of all diagnosed cases) but it does exist and it can affect people of any age. Also, just because a person has been diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease this doesn't mean that they suddenly lose their independence. People can live for many years with Parkinson's disease without having to rely on anyone but themselves. It is only in the late stage of the disease when some of the symptoms have become severe that Parkinson's sufferers need help with certain aspects of their life such as walking and bathing.

So let us say that you go to a social event and you meet the person with Parkinson's disease. You and everybody else may not even realise that they have the condition because contrary to popular belief not all sufferers have visible tremors or mobility problems, especially in the early stages of the disease. Every Parkinson's sufferer will have different symptoms that are present to different extents and although tremors are the most common symptom of the disease at least 20% of sufferers never have a tremor in their life. They may drop things and fall over a lot but these aren't really events you would associate with Parkinson's disease even though they are symptoms of the condition. Thus assuming that everybody with Parkinson's disease shakes a lot is another common misconception.

There are literally hundreds of beliefs regarding Parkinson's disease that are very wrong and simply by doing a bit of research many of these ideas could be dismissed for good however people in general don't want to spend time sorting fact from fiction and so the misguided ideas continue to form in the heads of the uneducated.

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