Doctors Find Parkinson's Affecting Younger Patients

5/24/2010

NPF President and CEO Joyce Oberdorf comments on the incidence of Parkinson's in this article about Young Onset Parkinson's Disease. Watch the video segment on Florida's WPGL Local 10 or read the article below.


Doctors Find Parkinson's Affecting Younger Patients: Condition No Longer An Affliction Of the Elderly

MARGATE, Fla. -- Anthony Scelta was once the epitome of health. In 1995, at the age of 25, he was working as a personal trainer and body builder.

"One day I noticed my arms felt stiff, and I just figured it was from working out," he said.But as the stiffness worsened and he developed hand tremors, Scelta sought medical advice.

"When they said I had Parkinson's I couldn't believe it," he said. "Back then, a 25-year-old with Parkinson's was unheard of."

According to the National Parkinson Foundation, 10 percent of the 1 million Americans who develop the disease are diagnosed at an early age, which is referred to as young onset Parkinson's.

"Parkinson's is considered part genetic and part environmental," said Joyce Oberdorf, president of the foundation. "With exposure to environmental toxins increasing, the incidence of Parkinson's may also be increasing," she added.

Warning signs of young onset Parkinson's include small tremors, rigidity in limbs, an unrelenting ache in an arm or shoulder, and even a loss of the sense of smell.

"If you cannot smell, particularly dill pickles, licorice or bananas, you should get yourself to a neurologist," Oberdorf said.

While there is no cure for Parkinson's at any age, researchers have found that intense exercise can slow the progression of the disease.

Some medications may also slow the progression but experts say the greatest hope lies in stem cell and genetic research.

"Today may be the best time for someone to get a diagnosis like this, because there's so much happening, hopefully soon," said Scelta.

Scelta has written a book to help other people diagnosed with young onset Parkinson's. It's called "Defying Despair: Feed the Mind, Train The Body, Nourish The Soul."

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