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12 Surprising Facts You Didn’t know About Parkinson’s Disease

User Category: BlogOn: May 6, 2013

Parkinson’s (also known as idiopathic parkinsonism, hypokinetic rigid syndrome/HRS, or paralysis agitans) was first discovered in 1817 by British doctor James Parkinson, and brought into public attention in the modern times by celebrities with parkinsonism including Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali. Parkinson’s Disease is a brain disorder that results from the gradual degeneration of nerve cells in the neural area called the “substantia nigra”, which controls muscle movement and coordination through the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. As the neurons die off, the amount of dopamine in the brain decreases, resulting in classic parkinsonism symptoms including muscle stiffness, tremor, weakness, and trembling. Because the condition is progressive in nature, symptoms gradually worsen over time. Beyond the physical manifestation of PD, the disease is often accompanied by mental health problems including depression. While Parkinson’s affects millions of Americans, many know very little about the disease. Here are 12 surprising facts about PD you need to know: Each year, there are over 50,000 new cases of Parkinson’s in the United States. One in every 200 individuals will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Men are twice as likely to develop PD as compared to women. Parkinson’s disease usually begins between around the average age of 56, affecting about 1% of the population aged 50-65. The youngest person ever diagnosed with Parkinson’s is 12 years old. Although it is claimed that Parkinson's Disease becomes more likely with age, amongst the very oldest of people, those between 110 and 120 years old, Parkinson's Disease is virtually unknown. Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is difficult, since there is no blood or other laboratory test, which can confirm if someone definitely has the condition. A doctor can evaluate your symptoms and run a series of tests to rule out other disease to arrive at a PD diagnosis  Researchers believe genetics play a large role in PD. In studies, researchers have found that people with an affected first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, have a 4%-9% increased chance of having PD. Parkinsonism may be caused by viral infection or exposure to environmental toxins including carbon monoxide, pesticides, and certain metals. Other causes may include illicit drug use, adverse reaction to prescription medication, repeated head trauma, brain inflammation (encephalitis), and stroke. The US spends over $25 billion on Parkinson’s Disease: the combined direct and indirect costs of the disease including treatment, social security payments, and lost income from inability to work. Medication costs for an individual person with Parkinson’s average $2,500 a year, and therapeutic surgery can cost up to $100,000 per individual annually.  Do you have a family member, friend, or client affected by Parkinson’s Disease? What do you wish the public knew about PD?