With the debut of his new television series, The Michael J. Fox Show, Parkinson’s disease will be put front and center. In a recent interview, Michael J. Fox revealed the early warning signs that had him head to a neurologist and ended up as a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Whether the show becomes a hit is yet to be seen, but one thing it will do is educate viewers about a disease that most people know little or nothing about. Hopefully, the show will prompt viewers to learn more about this disease that today affects over one million adults in the United States and could result in an early diagnoses.
One of the easiest descriptions of Parkinson’s disease is given by the National Parkinson’s Foundation. They explain that the disease occurs when an important chemical in the brain, called dopamine, ceases to be made. Dopamine helps with body movement and mood. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease, slowly getting worse over time. In many cases, with medical attention, patients are able to live longer than expected. Medications that replace dopamine, as well as other treatments, are given to patients to deal with the symptoms.
There are 10 warning signs of Parkinson’s disease, which may help someone recognize the disease early. Because these symptoms can mimic other forms of illness, the Foundation recommends contacting a doctor only if you have more than one. The best chance to live a long, healthy life after diagnosis is to catch Parkinson’s disease early.
When Michael J. Fox felt the first uncontrollable twitching and shaking in his pinky finger in 1990, he was noticing the first of many warning signs of Parkinson’s disease. Tremors in the fingers, thumbs, lip or chin or shaking limbs while a person is relaxing is the most common sign of Parkinson’s, especially if it is not related to an injury, medication, or extreme physical activity.
Handwriting that has gotten smaller than normal can be a sign of Parkinson’s. If cramped handwriting is not due to aging, arthritis, or poor vision, making smaller letter sizes and crowding words together could be a warning sign.
When a person suffers from a stuffy nose from a cold or the flu, the sense of smell is affected, but not being able to smell things normally, especially highly fragrant things, could be another warning of Parkinson’s.
Thrashing around in bed during sleep is another of the signs which to watch for. People who repeatedly fall out of bed due to intensely restless sleep, Parkinson’s disease may be the cause.
Those with Parkinson’s disease are marked by their stiffness of movement. They acquire a shuffling gait, as though their feet are “stuck to the floor,” and have little or no arm movement. This stiffness can create back and neck pain. Normal stiffness from an injury or illness will go away. The stiffness of Parkinson’s does not.
Trouble moving the bowels are another of the early warning signs. Many of those with Parkinson’s have to strain daily to have a bowel movement.
Strange as it may sound, speaking in a soft voice or too low to be heard is another sign of Parkinson’s disease. This can be frustrating for the one speaking, since it may appear to them that others are just not able to hear what they say.
The face of Parkinson’s is a mask-like face for those with this disease. Parkinson’s patients do not blink as often as other people and keep a blank stare or serious expression on their faces at all times. This “mask” is not reoccurring, but a permanent situation if you suffer from Parkinson’s.
Low blood pressure can cause dizziness or even fainting. Parkinson’s patients can have low blood pressure so frequent dizzy or fainting spells could indicate the presence of the disease.
Along with the slower movements of Parkinson’s sufferers, having hunched over or stooped posture could be a sign of this condition. As long as there is no other health issue that could cause this, stooped posture should be considered as a warning sign of the disease.
No matter what the symptoms, living with Parkinson’s disease is a challenge, as the viewers of The Michael J. Fox Show will see. There is no cure for this disease, but research continues and through education from many websites, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation site. A person can find out all the warning signs for early detection of Parkinson’s disease.
By: Lisa Nance