When is it Time to Talk with Your Doctor about Parkinson’s Disease?

Release date: 4/5/2011

When is it Time to Talk with Your Doctor about Parkinson’s Disease?

New National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) survey reveals people are hesitant to see their doctor when they show symptoms

MIAMI - April 5, 2011 – A recent nationwide survey conducted by the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) revealed 60 percent of Americans would wait to see their doctor if they were experiencing consistent regular tremors—despite the fact that most of those surveyed (81%) recognized that tremors are an early warning sign of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Although men suffer from Parkinson’s 1.5-2 times more than females, the men surveyed were more likely to adopt a wait and see attitude (61% vs. 55%) and to be less aware of PD’s early warning signs (86% vs. 91%).

“People should get an assessment as soon as they experience symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.   Research shows that getting treatment early can make a difference,” says Michael Okun, MD, National Medical Director for NPF.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that progresses over time and affects a person’s ability to walk, as well as their movement and coordination.  The disease is a result of changes in the brain that researchers now know can be associated with both genetics and environmental toxins.  More than half of Americans in the survey were not aware of the important role that environmental toxins play in developing Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s develops slowly, with only subtle symptoms early on, including:

  • Tremors and shaking
  • Trouble moving or walking
  • Loss of facial expression
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Stooping or hunched over
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Soft or low voice
  • Small handwriting
  • Loss of smell
  • Constipation

The survey revealed only a third of Americans are familiar with five or more of the 10 early warning signs of the disease. The symptoms they were least aware of were loss of smell, sleeping trouble, dizziness and fainting.  Hispanics are more likely than the general population to recognize some of the lesser known warning signs, such as loss of smell (32% vs. 19%) and constipation (23% vs. 11%), but often have trouble finding expert care.

“This survey underscores the need for more education and ongoing research to provide treatment options that slow or stop the disease,” said Joyce Oberdorf, NPF’s President and CEO. “The National Parkinson Foundation is dedicated to supporting research that will lead to earlier diagnosis and a better quality of life for those affected.  Clearly, the first step is greater awareness, and that is our goal during April, which is Parkinson’s Awareness Month.”

For more information about Parkinson’s disease and the National Parkinson Foundation, please visit www.parkinson.org or call 1-800-4PD-INFO.

About Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people and occurs when the brain stops making the chemical dopamine.  Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s with an estimated one million people with the disease in the U.S. and four to six million worldwide. At present, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and 50-60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S.

About the National Parkinson Foundation
Founded in 1957, the National Parkinson Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of care for people with Parkinson’s disease through research, education, and outreach. Since 1982, NPF has funded more than $155 million in care, research and support services.

About the National Parkinson Foundation Survey
The National Parkinson Foundation survey was conducted by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications and Chandler Chicco Companies on behalf of the National Parkinson Foundation. The nationwide study surveyed 1,007 adult Americans (age 18+) from February 18 to 20, 2011 via telephone.

Learn more about the survey.