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Health Matters: World Parkinson's Day

Health Matters: World Parkinson's Day
08 April 2019

Dr Andrew Wilson, clinical chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group

As 11 April is World Parkinson’s Day, I wanted to use this week’s column to raise awareness of the symptoms and underline the importance of seeing your GP if you believe you may be affected.

Although there’s currently no cure, it’s possible to manage the symptoms to some extent while there’s free support available for people living with the condition.

Parkinson's disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years. There are more than 40 symptoms that affect people of all ages, currently there is no cure.

Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain, this leads to a reduction in dopamine, which plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body.

We don't yet know exactly why people get Parkinson's but researchers think it's a combination of genetic and environmental factors that cause the cells that produce dopamine to die.

Most people with Parkinson's start to develop symptoms when they're over 50, although around one in 20 people with the condition first experience symptoms when they're under 40.

There are many symptoms of Parkinson's but not everyone will experience all of them. You may also experience other symptoms including mental health issues and problems with sleep and memory. The three main symptoms of Parkinson's disease are:

  • involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor)
  • slow movement
  • stiff and inflexible muscles.

Although there's currently no cure for Parkinson's disease, treatments are available to help reduce the main symptoms and maintain quality of life for as long as possible. These include supportive treatments such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy, medication and, in some cases, brain surgery.

See your GP if you're concerned you may have symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Your GP will ask about your symptoms and your medical history to help decide whether it's necessary to refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Parkinson's UK is the main Parkinson's support and research charity in the UK. They can help if you're living with the disease and let you know about support groups in your local area.

 They can be contacted using their free helpline on 0808 800 0303 or via email at hello@parkinsons.org.uk.