How Might Parkinsons Affect Women
Although almost 50% of people with Parkinsons are women , there has been very little research into the additional challenges that women may encounter. In fact, most information is anecdotal rather than based on clinical research and tends to emerge as a result of the sharing of problems. However, not everyone is forthcoming with their difficulties so the overall picture is perhaps not truly representative of the broad range of experiences of Parkinson’s in women.
Q Are There Any Alternative Therapies That Are Effective For Pain In Pd
Dr. Fleisher: Although alternative therapies may be helpful, there is little evidence-based research to support their use. Certainly massage therapy, anecdotally, seems to be helpful for managing pain. Small studies suggest that acupuncture might improve sleep in patients with PD, but data on the effects on pain in PD is lacking. Larger, more well-controlled and reproducible studies of these therapies are needed.
Patients frequently ask about the effects of medical marijuana in managing PD, including pain symptoms. Several studies have looked at efficacy of marijuana in PD and have found that it probably is ineffective for most PD symptoms.11 However, we just dont have enough evidence to know for sure. The most rigorous study of medical marijuana in PD showed a trend toward worsening tremor.11,12
For most people, stress and anxiety worsen tremor, and anything that relieves anxiety will improve tremor. Thus, modalities such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness training will improve tremor. Similarly, medical marijuana may improve tremor in certain people by temporarily reducing anxiety and stress, but the evidence has not borne this out yet.
Can Parkinsons Disease Be Prevented
Unfortunately, no. Parkinsons disease is long-term disease that worsens over time. Although there is no way to prevent or cure the disease , medications may significantly relieve your symptoms. In some patients especially those with later-stage disease, surgery to improve symptoms may be an option.
Also Check: Can Parkinson’s Start In The Legs
What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Early diagnosis can greatly increase the effectiveness of Parkinsons treatment. However, Parkinsons symptoms are easy to dismiss as normal signs of aging or other conditions such as stroke or head trauma. For these reasons, people may ignore symptoms or doctors may have a harder time with diagnosis.
Sex Differences: How Men And Women Experience Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons has not typically been thought of as being different for men and women, but the medical community is starting to recognize some possible sex differences in terms of symptoms and your overall experience with the condition. Motor and movement symptoms are generally the same for all genders. However, women may experience more anxiety, depression and other non-motor symptoms and may experience changes in their menstrual cycle with PD symptoms.10 Women may also experience some different side effects to medications.4 Theres still a lot physicians dont yet understand about sex differences, and more research is needed.
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Black Americans And Parkinsons Disease
Most research suggests that Parkinsons disease is more likely to affect whites and Hispanics.
But, some studies have shown that Black patients may be less likely to receive proper care for the disease.
A review published in 2018 in Neurology found there are racial disparities when it comes to managing Parkinsons disease.
Researchers identified one study that showed Black patients were 4 times less likely than whites to be started on treatment for Parkinsons.
Another study found an average seven-year delay in diagnosis among Black patients.
Once The Initial Shock Of My Diagnosis Wore Off I Took A Good Look At My Life And The Way I Wanted To Live It
In early 2018, I realized that my sons needed a strong mother, and I was not going to let them come home to a mom who had given up on herself. I had to start focusing on the one thing I could control: slowing the progression of my symptoms.
Along with medication, exercise is a huge part of that, so I started taking boxing classes designed for people living with Parkinsons disease to help improve my balance, agility, and hand-eye coordination. I usually attend class at least three times a week and jog on the beach. I also paint with my youngest son. We cherish this time together, even though much of the paint ends up on our clothes and not the canvas!
Finally, Ive let go of mom guilt. Living with Parkinsons disease, I cant take the kids to school, take a boxing class, pick up groceries for dinner, see the doctor, go back and pick up the kids, and then take my son to jiu jitsu classesId simply be too wiped out. So, I plan accordingly.
“I realized that my sons needed a strong mother, and I was not going to let them come home to a mom who had given up on herself.”
It also helps that I have a large support system: Ive found others living with Parkinsons disease, I attend support groups and see a therapist, and I work with the Parkinsons Foundation as a social media ambassador and blogger to help others like me. Few people know about young onset Parkinsons disease, which is why Im passionate about telling my story so that others know they arent alone in this battle.
Read Also: Parkinson’s Symptom Tracker App
Improving Life For Women With Parkinson’s Disease
As an audiologist, Sharon Krischer used her skills to help others improve their hearing. But for a long time, she couldnt hear what her own body was telling her.
The mother of three daughters and grandmother of four remembers writing thank you notes one day when her right foot started shaking. It continued happening occasionally, but the inconsistency made Krischer think nothing of it until she broke her opposite leg and the twitch in her right foot returned. This time it wasnt going away.
People living with Parkinsons disease can experience symptoms affecting their movement, as well as other health consequences.
Krischers internist prescribed anti-anxiety medication, but the tremor spread to her right hand. She saw a neurologist who said she had a Parkinsons-like tremor and prescribed an anti-Parkinson drug.
After experiencing hallucinations from the medication, her internist referred her to a movement disorders specialist at University of California, Los Angeles. There, 18 months after first seeing symptoms, she received a diagnosis of Parkinsons disease . She was 57 years old.
The first year is very, very hard if you are a young woman with PD because you dont know how people will react, Krischer said. Its also hard to go from being the caregiver to receiving care, especially if you have children.
Are There Differences In Parkinsons Treatment Between Men And Women
All current treatment options address PD symptoms, but they do not slow down or stop the progression of PD. Levodopa, often prescribed as Sinemet, is considered the gold standard therapy for Parkinsons movement symptoms. However, many people with PD experience changes in the effectiveness of the drug as the disease progresses. And some studies suggest that women are more likely than men to report these fluctuations earlier in the disease course and more frequently overall.
In particular, it seems that women are more likely to have involuntary movements called dyskinesias that occur when levodopa levels are highest in the blood. There are several factors that could be contributing to dyskinesia, including dosage, body weight and age of onset. Lower body weight can affect how medications build up in someones system. Lighter people sometimes need a smaller dose of medication to feel its effect. On average, women weigh less than men. If women and men are receiving similar doses, this may explain how levodopa levels are causing dyskinesias.
Physicians have also suggested that they find it harder to fine-tune Parkinsons medications for women than for men. Women more often experience large swings in symptoms from even small changes in medications or schedules.
Also Check: Tremor Predominant Parkinson Disease Treatment
Living With Parkinson Disease
Even though Parkinson disease is a chronic, incurable disease, treatment can help ease symptoms and enhance your quality of life. You can also do a lot to stay independent, such as:
Eating a healthy diet
Staying mobile with the use of assistive devices, if needed
Doing physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, if needed
Also talk with your healthcare provider about depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues that may come up.
Community agencies can help you and your family adjust to the diagnosis of Parkinson disease. The Parkinson’s Foundation provides a variety of educational resources for patients and family members. It also has a helpline staffed with Parkinson specialists who can offer support to people with PD, caregivers, and healthcare providers. The helpline provides information about emotional support, current PD-related medical information, and local resources. The helpline is available at 800-4PD-INFO or .
How Do I Prevent Falls From Common Hazards
- Floors: Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Minimize clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Keep furniture in its usual place.
- Bathroom: Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the tub or shower. Use non-skid bath mats on the floor or install wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Lighting: Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well-lit. Install a night light in your bathroom or hallway and staircase. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night. Make sure lamps or light switches are within reach of the bed if you have to get up during the night.
- Kitchen: Install non-skid rubber mats near the sink and stove. Clean spills immediately.
- Stairs: Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure. Install a rail on both sides of the stairs. If stairs are a threat, it might be helpful to arrange most of your activities on the lower level to reduce the number of times you must climb the stairs.
- Entrances and doorways: Install metal handles on the walls adjacent to the doorknobs of all doors to make it more secure as you travel through the doorway.
Also Check: Parkinson’s Foundation Miami Florida
What Lifestyle Changes Can I Make To Ease Parkinsons Symptoms
Exercise: Exercise helps improve muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and tremor. It is also strongly believed to improve memory, thinking and reduce the risk of falls and decrease anxiety and depression. One study in persons with Parkinsons disease showed that 2.5 hours of exercise per week resulted in improved ability to move and a slower decline in quality of life compared to those who didnt exercise or didnt start until later in the course of their disease. Some exercises to consider include strengthening or resistance training, stretching exercises or aerobics . All types of exercise are helpful.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet: This is not only good for your general health but can ease some of the non-movement related symptoms of Parkinsons, such as constipation. Eating foods high in fiber in particular can relieve constipation. The Mediterranean diet is one example of a healthy diet.
Preventing falls and maintaining balance: Falls are a frequent complication of Parkinson’s. While you can do many things to reduce your risk of falling, the two most important are: 1) to work with your doctor to ensure that your treatments whether medicines or deep brain stimulation are optimal and 2) to consult with a physical therapist who can assess your walking and balance. The physical therapist is the expert when it comes to recommending assistive devices or exercise to improve safety and preventing falls.
Other Causes Of Parkinsonism
“Parkinsonism” is the umbrella term used to describe the symptoms of tremors, muscle rigidity and slowness of movement.
Parkinson’s disease is the most common type of parkinsonism, but there are also some rarer types where a specific cause can be identified.
These include parkinsonism caused by:
- medication where symptoms develop after taking certain medications, such as some types of antipsychotic medication, and usually improve once the medication is stopped
- other progressive brain conditions such as progressive supranuclear palsy, multiple systems atrophy, and corticobasal degeneration
- cerebrovascular disease where a series of small strokes cause several parts of the brain to die
You can read more about parkinsonism on the Parkinson’s UK website.
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Early Onset Parkinsons Disease
Early-onset PD is defined as anyone diagnosed under age 50, which represents 10-20 percent of cases. The symptoms of early-onset Parkinsons are generally the same as when you get it later on but tend to be less severe if you are younger.17 However, you are more likely to have dystonia and dyskinesia if you have early-onset PD.11
The disease also tends to progress slower if youre diagnosed at a younger age. You are more likely to remain in the phases before you experience significant disability longer than people who are diagnosed at older ages.8
As a younger person with PD, you may feel the effects of symptoms differently since you are in a different place in your life than an older adult. For example, a tremor may impact your ability to perform certain jobs, or having very slow movements may make it difficult to play with your kids.10 Its important to remember that there are several different types of medications that can dramatically improve your symptoms, as well as lifestyle changes and exercises that help keep you functioning and living a full life.
Related: These articles share what its like living with early-onset Parkinsons.
Women And Parkinson’s Disease: What We Don’t Know
“It’s an unknown unknown,” Amie Hiller, M.D., says. She’s a neurologist at OHSU’s Parkinson Center and Movement Disorders Program, and she’s talking about how the impact of Parkinson’s disease on women might be different from the disease’s impact on men.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects the nervous system. It’s a chronic disease that gets worse over time, and there is no cure. Parkinson’s disease can cause tremors, slowness, stiffness, and balance problems. In the advanced stages, it can impact cognitive function.
Most people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are over the age of 60, and as many as one million people in the United States have the disease. The disease is more common in men, but scientists don’t yet understand why.
As Dr. Hiller notes, this isn’t the only mystery about Parkinson’s disease, especially when it comes to women.
Outcomes may be worse for women
“Parkinson’s disease research has focused more on men, and we treat women the same way we treat men,” says Dr. Hiller. “We don’t know if the disease might behave differently in women.”
It’s possible that women are underdiagnosed due to symptoms presenting differently, or that the best treatment for women is different than the best treatment for men. Dr. Hiller is part of a team putting together a “Women and PD: TALK” forum at OHSU to tackle these questions.
Women and Parkinson’s disease forum
Research leads to better care
If your loved one has Parkinson’s
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What Are The Surgical Treatments For Parkinsons Disease
Most patients with Parkinsons disease can maintain a good quality of life with medications. However, as the disease worsens, medications may no longer be effective in some patients. In these patients, the effectiveness of medications becomes unpredictable reducing symptoms during on periods and no longer controlling symptoms during off periods, which usually occur when the medication is wearing off and just before the next dose is to be taken. Sometimes these variations can be managed with changes in medications. However, sometimes they cant. Based on the type and severity of your symptoms, the failure of adjustments in your medications, the decline in your quality of life and your overall health, your doctor may discuss some of the available surgical options.
Q What Is The Role Of Depression In The Pain Experience In Pd
Dr. Fleisher: Depression is one of the most overlooked symptoms of PD, and it can affect over 30% of people with the disease at some point in their illness.5 I think there is a misconception that depression results from an adjustment disorder following diagnosis. While that may be partially true, patients with PD have alterations in various neurotransmittersincluding serotonin and norepinephrine in addition to dopaminethat predispose them to depression.6,7
Depression is the primary factor related to quality of life in PD and is an independent risk factor for medication nonadherence. A physician could prescribe the most comprehensive regimen to control Parkinsons symptoms, including pain, but if depression symptoms are not being addressed simultaneously, the likelihood that that person is going to take that regimen is pretty minimal.
Given the link between depression and chronic pain, patients who are depressed should be screened for chronic pain and vice versa. In my practice, we screen every patient with the Unified Parkinsons Disease rating scale , which has both a patient-reported subjective component that includes questions about depression, pain, and altered sensation, as well as an objective component that includes a physical examination and questions about potential medication adverse effects . The patient fills out the subjective component every single time they come to the office.
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How Is Parkinson Disease Diagnosed
Diagnosing Parkinson in the early stages can be hard. At first, signs and symptoms may look like other health problems or the effects of normal aging. For this reason, your healthcare provider may want to watch your symptoms for some time until they are consistently there.
Right now, there are no blood or lab tests to diagnose Parkinson. Diagnosis of Parkinson is based mainly on a health history and nervous system exam. Brain scans or lab tests may be done to help rule out other diseases or conditions. But brain scans generally will turn out to be normal with Parkinson.
You may need:
Neurological exam. This includes looking at symptoms and how serious they are.
Trial test of medicines. When symptoms are severe, a trial test of medicines may be used. If symptoms are eased from the use of levodopa, this suggests Parkinson.
CT scan. This imaging test uses X-rays and a computer to make images of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
MRI. This test uses large magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body.