Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects coordination of movement in sufferers. The condition results from a loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. The reason behind the cell death is still unclear. Parkinson’s affects over 100,000 Canadians, in the Maritimes there are nearly 9,000 (this number is expected to increase significantly over the next 10 years as the population ages).
While the cause of Parkinson’s is unknown and there is no known cure, physicians are now better able to diagnose the condition, which leads to earlier treatment. The most common association with Parkinson’s is a tremor. Other symptoms include speech impairment, fatigue, impaired balance, rigidity, depression, difficulty writing, loss of facial expression, and sleep disturbance.
Several famous Canadians in the past year’s news were noted to have Parkinson’s including the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Maurice Richard, the former Montreal Canadians hockey player, and Michael J. Fox. As a result of Michael J. Fox announcing that he has Parkinson’s many people are now realizing that it is not necessarily an older person’s disease. Increasing numbers of individuals are being diagnosed while still in their 30’s or 40’s.
You can live with Parkinson’s for decades. Since 1993 the average age of diagnosis has decreased to 52 from 63. For young onset, a diagnosis often means early retirement and complete life readjustment. Treatment with medication, and in some instances surgery, help to alleviate symptoms, but more research is needed to find the cause, improve treatment options, and cure Parkinson’s.
Parkinson Society Maritime Region is a health charity whose mission is to ease the burden and find a cure through advocacy, education, research, and support services to improve quality of life for all those affected by Parkinson’s.
For more information visit the Parkinson Society Maritime Region website at www.ParkinsonMaritimes.ca.