Not Just an ‘Elderly Disease’: What to Know About Young-Onset Parkinson’s Disease

Nurse talking to a patient with parkinson disease

Nurse talking to a patient with parkinson diseaseParkinson’s disease (PD) has this image of the ‘elderly person’s disease’, but the truth is this condition can affect even young people. In fact, just recently, a news report told the story of a mom whose son was diagnosed at age 11. When symptoms of the disease start manifesting before the age of 50, it’s called young onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD).

If your loved one or someone you know is showing some possible signs of irregularity in behavior, it’s important to refer them to a neurology center in St. George or any other location in the US. The doctors may perform some tests to verify if the patient really PD or YOPD and recommend the right management program. You also need to be careful when interacting with the patient, as well as be mindful of the things that may trigger the attacks.

Here are other things to know about this condition:

It’s similar to PD but different

YOPD patients experience the same symptoms older people suffer from, such as tremors of the hands and legs, poor balance, sluggishness, and memory lapses. What’s different though is that the symptoms progress slowly, partly because of the fact that younger people don’t have other health problems yet and they tend to respond better to physical therapy. Other neurologists suggest that another point of difference is YOPD patients suffer from more frequent muscle contractions, resulting in abnormal movements and postures.

It’s important to distinguish YOPD from PD not just because of the symptoms, but also because of the unique lifestyle of the patient. Oftentimes, patients are at the height of their career or planning to raise a family, so treatments should be tailored to accommodate such needs. It’s ideal to talk to your doctor about your specific needs, so you can customize the treatment plan accordingly.

It’s often due to genetics

Old lady suffering from parkinson disease

While PD is attributed to age and lifestyle factors, YOPD is largely influenced by genes. You’re at a higher risk of developing the disease if you have a family member who has suffered from PD. You may want to consider genetic testing to know if you carry some gene mutations. Data gathered in these tests would also help your doctor better understand your unique condition and determine which therapies could work.

Do note though that just because you have the genes doesn’t mean you’ll automatically develop the disease. What the test does is make you aware of your risk; therefore, helping you be more proactive about your health.

Its treatment may have side effects

You’re more vulnerable to developing dyskinesia or involuntary movements when you take levodopa, the drug used to manage PD. For this reason, some patients choose to postpone treatment, especially if the symptoms aren’t severe yet. Some also go for other types of medicines. Consult a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders and ask what your options are. Remember that every treatment program is unique and should be tailored to your health and lifestyle needs.

Parkinson’s disease isn’t just a disease of the old — everyone can develop it, even the young ones. If your loved one or someone you know is at risk for this problem, talk to a doctor as soon as possible.


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