A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is life-changing. However, most people have a good quality of life after acceptance of the diagnosis during the initial period.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological disorder. PD occurs when the cells in the brain that produce dopamine die or become impaired. Dopamine allows for the smooth, coordinated function of body muscles and movement. When ~80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the motor symptoms of the disease appear.
Motor symptoms include slow movements, stiffness, involuntary shaking and tremors, and trouble with balance and falls. Other symptoms can precede motor symptoms and may appear earlier in the disease. These include a loss of sense of smell, constipation, sleep difficulties, low mood or depression and blood pressure drops upon standing.
Steps After Diagnosis
A PD diagnosis is certainly life-altering, but there are many resources available from excellent doctors and other patients.
Find a doctor: Find a neurologist that specializes in movement disorders. A movement disorder specialist will have more familiarity with the latest treatments.
Talk to family members: PD affects every member of the family. Be sure that the individual with PD is ready to share the diagnosis. Having open, honest conversations can help everyone involved understand the diagnosis and be ready for future changes.
Inform your employer when ready: It is entirely up to you to decide to share a PD diagnosis with employers. There are rights and accommodations that can help keep employment feasible. Having a strategy before the conversation can help keep you in control of the narrative.
Find community: A PD diagnosis can feel very lonely, but it is important to remember that there are almost 1 million people in the Unified States and about 6 million people worldwide with Parkinson’s disease. Connecting with others who have PD can be empowering.
Proactively Living Well: Prioritizing sleep, exercise, and PD-related healthcare visits allows you to stay ahead of symptoms. Eating a well-balanced diet can improve non-motor symptoms. Stress can make motor symptoms worse so every effort should be taken to reduce stress. There are many steps that can be taken to ensure that life is full and enjoyable with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.