A close second after Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is widely recognized as the second most common neurodegenerative disorder. When we hear about PD, most of us immediately think about Michael .J Fox (diagnosed in 1991 at age 30) and his ability to carry on successfully with his family and career. The progression of this disease can be a slow and steady journey – for some extending into two decades before completely impacting the body. For others however, this disease can progress much quicker, interfering with normal everyday activities, altering family dynamics and relationships, and impacting the brain in a way that makes it nearly impossible to control body movements.
What You Should Know
Besides what we observe externally and visibly from those who suffer with this progressive disease (and with what Michael J. Fox has shared with the public), many of us don’t know very much about PD. Affecting more than 1 million Americans, this neurodegenerative disorder occurs when approximately 60-80% of dopamine-producing cells are damaged within the brain. Dopamine, a chemical that relays messages between the substantia nigra and other parts of the brain, controls movements of the body in a smooth and coordinated way. Thus, once this loss of dopamine occurs, nerve cells of the striatum begin to fire excessively while restricting one’s ability to control body movement. In addition to movement and motor symptoms, PD can cause many other complex and disabling symptoms. Symptoms vary between individuals, but may include: problems with swallowing and chewing, speech impairments, urinary problems or constipation, excessive sweating and other skin problems, depression and other emotional changes, and difficulties with sleep.
It is important to understand the realities of PD, as it does not affect every person in the same way, or at the same progressive speed. After digging a little bit deeper on the topic, we came across some surprising facts about PD:
1. Parkinson’s may start with your sense of smell. One of the earliest symptoms of Parkinson’s may be a loss of smell, which can occur 20-30 years before diagnosis.
2. Parkinson’s disease is not the same as Parkinsonism. Parkinson’s is only one form of Parkinsonism (any condition that causes a combination of the movement abnormalities seen in Parkinson’s disease).
3. Parkinson’s is not a man’s disease. About 60% of people who have the most typical kind of Parkinson’s are men, but the other forms of Parkinson’s split 50/50.
4. Parkinson’s is not an old person’s disease. The average age of diagnosis is over 50 years old.
Although the symptoms can be the same no matter what age PD develops, when someone who is 21-40 years old receives a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, it is referred to as young onset Parkinson’s disease.
5. There’s no test for Parkinson’s. There isn’t a single test used when diagnosing PD, but rather a combination of diagnostic tests.
6. Parkinson’s has genetic and environmental components. Today, most scientists believe that PD is caused by a combination of environmental exposures and underlying genetic susceptibility.
See more here.
At Kantor & Kantor, we understand the complexities of PD, whether the symptoms are of mild and slow progression, or are severely impairing and disabling. No matter where a client falls on the spectrum of PD, they come to us seeking advice as their disease impedes their ability to work. With many clients who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, we recognize the magnitude of this illness and the importance of protecting our clients and advocating for the disability benefits to which they are entitled. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t always understand how devastating and life changing this illness can be.
If you have questions about your long term disability and Parkinson’s disease, contact our office for a no-cost consultation.
We understand, and we can help.
www.kantorlaw.net (800) 446-7529