Living with Parkinson’s Disease – World Parkinson’s Day 2019

At St Neots Hospital, we are supporting World Parkinson’s Day, focusing on raising awareness with regards to the prevention and management of falls. 

According to research conducted by Parkinson’s UK in 2015, the likelihood of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease was 2.7% for the population, equating to 1 in 37 of adults.  Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological condition which affects the brain. It is named after British Doctor James Parkinson, who in 1817 first described it as ‘shaking palsy’.  Cells within your brain which produce dopamine are lost and the person’s ability to control their motor functioning reduces.  The person will gradually lose control of their muscles, causing the effects to become more apparent. The disease can affect your balance, cause tremors and stiffness, slowness in movement, and often a shuffling or “freezing” gait as the disease progresses.  There may also be changes to the person’s ability to swallow and they may produce excessive salivation.  The person’s mental health can also inadvertently become affected, following both their diagnosis and whilst living with the disease, leading to depression and anxiety.  A person with Parkinson’s Disease can also go on to develop dementia.

The cause of this is unknown as yet, although there have been many studies to try to determine this. 

Many of you will have seen the effect that this disease can have on a person either personally or through the media, with individuals sharing their diagnosis with this disease, such as Mohammed Ali, Bob Hoskins, and more recently Billy Connolly and Michael J Fox. 

This disease mainly affects those over the age of 60, but as the public personas above show, this can occur earlier in life with early onset Parkinson’s Disease, and those under the age of 21 years of age being diagnosed with Juvenile Parkinson’s Disease.  Men are up to twice as likely to develop this disease as women.  In the early stages, Parkinson’s Disease can resemble the symptoms produced by Lewy Body Dementia, stroke and encephalitis. Diagnosis of any of these illnesses is crucial for the person to receive the right treatment and support.  As medicine has progressed, so has the treatment for this disease. Medication can prevent progression of this disease along with the associated deterioration of the function of the individual.  However, this is complicated when the medication which is prescribed to prevent the symptoms, can present side effects which mimic Parkinson’s Disease.

Additional to medication regimes used to support symptom management, professionals can offer support to an individual such as Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Speech and Language Therapy.  This can help with enabling the person to find alternative ways of undertaking everyday tasks.  Here at St Neots Hospital, we are lucky to have a Physiotherapist with a special interest in Parkinson’s Disease and who can guide the service delivery in line with best practice.  Advice can be given regarding equipment which could support the person to maintain their current physical functioning and help reduce any deterioration and maintain their ability to communicate independently, for as long as possible.  Changes to diet and the use of complementary therapies can be used to alleviate symptoms, where appropriate.  Technology is developing every day to support people with physical health conditions to remain as independent as is possible for the longest time possible and should be considered in the overall treatment plan.

For further information with regards to current research into Parkinson’s Disease click here.

St Neots provides assessment, treatment, rehabilitation and complex care for both male and female patients suffering from a broad range of neurological conditions e.g. Huntington’s disease, an acquired or traumatic brain injury, frontotemporal dementia or functional disorders and is provided by a highly experienced team based on site.

To make a referral, please email Natalie Dilks, Referral Manager St Neots Hospital.