This is addressed to all the physicians in my community. I have Parkinson's disease. Here are some things you might not know about Parkinson's:
1. Almost 35 percent of Parkinson's patients never get a tremor — that's right, no tremor. The rest may have action tremor and not resting tremor. The tremor may be on just one side of the body; Parkinson's doesn't have to be on both sides.
2. No one is too young to have Parkinson's disease. I know people who were diagnosed in their teens. It is not in our imagination, we are not faking symptoms, we aren't drinking too much coffee or just anxious. There is definitely something wrong. Help us.
3. Stiffness and slowness of movement are common symptoms. Changes in gait and lack of arm swing when walking are telltale signs.
4. Parkinson's medicines can cause melanoma, so refer all your patients to a dermatologist for a complete skin check.
5. If a patient presents with upper back, shoulder or neck pain that you can't find a clinical reason for, it could be an early sign of Parkinson's disease. Don't dismiss it.
6. Parkinson's disease can affect our heart, and the medicines we take can affect our blood pressure. Your Parkinson's patient might just need their Parkinson's medications adjusted, not another prescription.
7. Changes in the ability to smell may be an early sign of Parkinson's.
8. Sleep changes, acting out dreams, vivid nightmares are all early signs of Parkinson's.
9. Changes in handwriting, letters becoming smaller and cramped are another early sign.
10. Changes in voice, slurring words and speaking softer are all signs.
11. Changes in facial expression or a blank look are signs.
12. Stooped posture or loss of balance is common.
13. Cognitive changes can be a side effect of the Parkinson's medications, so don't just assume otherwise and add another Rx.
14. Adding another medication to the tons we take isn't always the answer — it could be one of the medications we are already taking that is causing the problem.
15. Refer your patients to a movement disorder specialist preferably or at least a neurologist who knows about Parkinson's. Don't try to treat them yourself; Parkinson's is too complicated. I know, I have it.