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8 Parkinson’s Myths Debunked | Knowledge is Power

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April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and a great time to clear up common myths about the disease.  Read on to learn more and take the #KnowMorePD Quiz to discover if “what you think you know” is myth or fact.

Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 28 years experience.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

8 Parkinson’s Myths Debunked | Knowledge is Power

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive, incurable disorder of the nervous system that causes problems with motor control and many other non-movement symptoms.  It’s linked to a loss of brain cells that produce and store dopamine, the chemical involved in body coordination.  More than 1 million people are living with PD in the U.S., and around 60,000 cases are diagnosed every year. The incidence of PD increases with age and approximately 4% of cases are diagnosed before age 50.

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and we can do our part by dispelling common myths surrounding the disease.

Common Myths

Myth 1: 

Parkinson’s is a motor disorder that only affects movement.

Fact: 

PD a movement disorder causing symptoms like tremors, muscle rigidity, slow movements and flat facial expressions.  However, non-movement symptoms also lead to disability, often lowering quality of life.  Non-movement symptoms may include:

  • Problems with attention, language, memory
  • Dementia
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety
  • Sexual problems
  • Sleep disorders
  • Incontinence

Myth 2:

Everyone with PD has a tremor.

Fact:

It’s true that tremors are the most common and noticeable symptom of PD.  However, some people with PD will never experience tremors.

Myth 3:

PD medications stop working after 5 years.

Fact:

Medications can be very effective in helping people manage symptoms of PD and live a full life. Levodopa is one of those drugs and works by converting into dopamine once it enters the brain.  Levodopa can be effective for many years (even decades) but over time, some may see a decrease in its effectiveness.  But, it's not the levodopa that stops working.  As the disease progresses, there is a decrease supply of the enzyme needed to convert levodopa to dopamine. 

Myth 4:

Outside of medication, there is little that can be done to manage PD.

Fact:

There are many ways a person can lessen the symptoms of PD. Lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a healthy diet, can make the impact of PD on everyday life more manageable.  Research has shown patients who exercise for just one hour every week showed significant improvement in daily life.  Other positive steps include:

  • Learn about the disease and become an active participant in your care.
  • Build a support system and stay socially active
  • See a movement specialist
  • Connect with other people facing PD
  • Participate in research

Myth 5:

Parkinson’s disease is genetic

Fact:

The exact cause of PD is unknown but researchers believe both genetic and external factors that contribute to disease development. Only 5-10% of PD cases are linked to genetics and there’s no one genetic mutation that leads to all diagnosed cases.

Myth 6: 

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is an experimental treatment.

Fact:

DBS has been used successfully for decades when medications become less effective in easing symptoms.

Myth 7:

Parkinson’s medications make symptoms worse.

Fact:

It is a common misconception that levodopa and other PD medications make symptoms worse, speeding up the disease progression.  This myth was dispelled decades ago by a large study that found the symptoms in people taking levodopa were no worse than symptoms in a placebo group.  The study also reported people taking the levodopa experienced an improvement in their PD symptoms.

Myth 8:

Parkinson’s disease is fatal.

Fact:

Parkinson’s disease is progressive, but does not directly cause death like a heart attack.  With good self-care and medical follow-up, a person with PD can live a productive life for many years.

As PD advances, a person may experience other problems such as difficulty swallowing, falls or pneumonia may occur.  However, many people live out their lives never experiencing these complications.

Take the #KnowMorePD Quiz

To promote Parkinson’s Awareness Month, the Parkinson’s Foundation developed a quiz so you see if “what you think you know” is myth or fact.

 Take the Quiz Here 

You Could Be a Winner!

Take the quiz and you’ll be entered into a weekly drawing through May 3rd for a $25 Amazon gift card.  At the end of the month, a grand prize winner will receive a new Kindle Paperwhite preloaded with all 12 of the foundation’s PD education books.

Let’s Hear Your Ideas

What creative way are you raising awareness around PD this April?


References

7 Parkinson’s Disease Misconceptions

Myths and Facts Parkinson’s Disease

Michael J. Fox Organization

J. Adderton MSN has over 20 years experience in clinical leadership, staff development, project management and nursing education.

152 Articles   471 Posts

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2 Comment(s)

brandy1017, ASN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

One thing you didn't mention, that I didn't know myself, until seeing a drug add is patients with Parkinsons can experience hallucinations and delusions.  I guess it makes sense since Haldol is used for psychosis, works on dopamine, but is contradicted in Parkinsons.  I wonder if levodopa working on dopamine actually can bring on the hallucinations, also manic bypolar?  Does anyone have any knowledge on this?

Curious1997, BSN

Specializes in Psych, Medical. Has 13 years experience.

As the disease progresses, there is a decrease supply of the enzyme needed to convert levodopa to dopamine. 

Why not supply the enzymes from the start? Is there a reason not to? Blood brain barrier?