A diagnosis of Parkinson’s can be scary and confusing. But it doesn’t need to be.
About 50,000 people per year are newly diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder in the United States, according to the National Institute of Health. In fact, 1.5 million people in the U.S. are living with the disease. So you’re far from alone.
But that doesn’t mean a serious diagnosis can’t make you feel uncertain. The best remedy for uncertainty? Knowledge. We’ve compiled a few important things to know about this condition so that you can feel more confident as you make crucial decisions about your care and your lifestyle.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
P.D. is a disorder in the brain that causes dopamine-producing cells to progressively die. Symptoms can surface as many as five years before diagnosis, reports the New York Times. Those symptoms can include tremor, balance problems, constipation, low blood pressure, dizziness, erectile and urinary dysfunction, fatigue, depression and anxiety. As the disorder progresses, symptoms can include rigidity, extreme slowness of movement, and impaired balance. Swallowing and speaking can also become difficult.
How is Parkinson’s treated?
Everyone’s symptoms are different, and so are their recommendations for treatment. Your doctor is the only one who can best determine the right course of medication and therapy for your symptoms.
Although there is no known cure, medical advances continue to improve and alleviate treatment of Parkinson’s symptoms. According to one study cited in the National Institute of Health, “enormous progress” has been made in Parkinson’s treatment. With the right medications and other treatments, Parkinson’s patients can experience significant relief from their symptoms.
Should I change my diet after I’ve been diagnosed?
It’s true for everyone, not just those with Parkinson’s, that maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen is good for your body, the heart, and the soul. Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, low on sugar and high on veggies, will give you energy and keep you feeling good. A manageable exercise routine–best discussed with your doctor–will also help you feel your best.
What should I do if I’ve just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s?
The Parkinson’s Foundation is an excellent resource for those newly diagnosed with the disease. Making sure you’ve got proper support, information about the condition, and access to the right medical care are your most important first few steps. Disclosing your diagnosis to friends, family, employers, and anyone else in your life can also be something you’ll want support for. Fortunately, there are plenty of support networks and groups online and in real life to help guide you through the more challenging aspects of Parkinson’s.