Several misunderstandings about Parkinson’s disease has led to the development of a series of myths about the condition.
Oscar Bernal Pacheco, a neurologist from the Colombian Neurology Association and specialist in involuntary movement disorders, explains a few of these myths:
- All Parkinson’s patients have tremors. While the majority do, this is not 100% true for all patients. “Approximately 70% of patients with Parkinson’s disease experience tremors. The most common symptoms of this disease are slow movement and an increased effort to being able to move. Not all patients that have tremors have Parkinson’s; a tremor can be caused by more than 20 different factors.”
- Parkinson’s is a disease that affects the elderly. This is not true. “With an incidence rate of only 1% in people over age 65, this disease affects individuals of any age. However, one of every 10 patients is diagnosed before age 50.”
- It is a life-threatening disease. No. “Despite the fact that this is a neurodegenerative disease without a cure, it is currently considered a chronic disease, which when treated properly, has a life expectancy rate that is nearly the same as the national average. If there are complications with the disease, however, these can be deadly.”
- Parkinson’s is the same as Alzheimer’s. No. “These are different diseases. After Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s is the second most serious neurodegenerative disease. Parkinson’s affects the area of the nervous system that is responsible for coordination, muscle tone and movement; whereas Alzheimer’s is more of a dementia process.
- It is hereditary. Not completely. “Ninety-two percent of patients have idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, where the specific cause of the disease is unknown. Genetic factors, however, are only involved in 8% of cases.
In Colombia, it is estimated that more than 220,000 people have Parkinson’s disease.