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What you may NOT know about Parkinson’s Disease

By Kamber Parker


Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive, neurological disease caused by the decrease of dopamine in the brain. As many as one million Americans live with Parkinson’s Disease—that includes 12,000 people alone living with the disease in the Upstate of South Carolina.


If you don’t personally know someone who struggles with Parkinson's Disease (PD) or the only person you do know of who lives with PD is Michael J. Fox, you might not realize just how many people the disease affects. The number of Americans living with Parkinson’s Disease is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. According to t the Michael J. Fox Foundation, “Scientists predict the number of people with Parkinson’s Disease in the world will double by 2040.”


Do you know the symptoms? Some lesser-known symptoms can include restricted facial expressions, reduced blinking, difficulty with fine movements, difficulty with writing, difficulty with balance and posture and an increased tendency to fall, slowed speech and a quiet voice, difficulty swallowing, extreme fatigue, constipation, bladder symptoms, hallucinations, sweating, sleep difficulty, pain, and depression and anxiety.


What relief is there for those who are struggling? There are some medications, but those haven’t changed since 1970. Therapy is also an option, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Surgery is even an option: Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). DBS is a surgical procedure that can assist with motor symptoms and potentially decrease the need for medication in certain individuals.


One of the most important treatments for Parkinson’s Disease is free and accessible to most: exercise. Daily movement is critical for individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease. It doesn’t have to be aggressive exercise either. Just 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week can improve the overall quality of life, improve mobility, and reduce care partner stress and strain.


How can you help? You can help support local organizations who are working to support those with Parkinson’s Disease in our community, like the Greenville Area Parkinson Society (GAPS). Serving nearly 4,500 people across the Upstate, all of GAPS’ programs are free and support both people with Parkinson’s and their spouses, caregivers, and adult children. Funding comes from local individual donors and community sponsors who see and appreciate the impact GAPS makes in the community, as well as its two annual events.


Kamber Parker is the interim Executive Director of Greenville Area Parkinson Society. Learn more at www.gapsonline.org.

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