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How do I know I have Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson’s disease can affect anyone – male or female and at any age, although it is much more common in older age. The four key symptoms are tremor, slowness of movement, muscle rigidity and instability. However, the nature and severity of symptoms can vary considerably from one individual to another. In the early stages of the disease, symptoms may be vague and non-specific, such as fatigue or muscle pain.

What will my doctor do if Parkinson's is suspected?

Your family doctor may order some tests to exclude other possible causes of your symptoms. However, there is no definitive test for Parkinson’s disease. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease relies very much on the symptoms. It is possible you may have to wait for symptoms to develop further to confirm the diagnosis. You may also be referred to a specialist neurologist for assessment.

What causes Parkinson's disease?

We understand that the cells in a particular part of the brain die off, causing a reduction in the level of the brain chemical dopamine. This primarily affects movement and coordination. However, we do not have a clear idea of what triggers this process and why some people are affected and others are not. For this reason, there are no clues to preventing Parkinson’s disease.

Is Parkinson's disease hereditary?

The short answer is no. Although about 10 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease will have a relative who is also affected, the vast majority do not. You should not worry about having passed the disease on to your children. Like many other diseases, Parkinson’s disease is likely to be the result of a complex interaction between both genetic and environmental factors.

Is there a cure?

Not yet. Parkinson’s disease is usually slowly progressive. This is despite the availability of many medications and, increasingly, some surgical options which can help control the symptoms. Many people with Parkinson’s disease live full and productive lives. Parkinson’s NSW plays a key role in this and is working with researchers and others in the community to help find a cure.

I take my prescribed medications, what else can I do?

Become well informed about the possible manifestations of the disease. Symptoms can fluctuate widely from day to day, in different situations and in response to different medications. It is also important to stay as active as possible. Don’t give up on daily activities and make a point of incorporating some regular exercise into your life.

Where can I get help?

General practitioners, neurologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists are amongst those who can provide professional advice on managing your disease. Many people also benefit from talking to other people who are similarly affected with the disease. Parkinson’s NSW can put you in contact with other individuals or support groups in your area.

How can I help someone with Parkinson's disease?

You may need some support if you are living with or caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease. Depending on your circumstances, the stage of their disease and their ability to function independently, you may just need information to help you understand the disease. Later, there may be a need for advice and practical support with the physical demands of caring for someone with a progressively disabling disease. Consider also your own personal needs and seek counselling if necessary. Parkinson’s NSW can provide advice and counselling.