GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month.
Nearly one million Americans are living with the disease.
Sixty-thousand people are diagnosed each year, and there is no cure yet.
As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, 7 News Anchor Taylor Murray spoke with a neurologist about treating the progressive disorder.
Parkinson’s disease is a nervous system disorder.
“It’s chronic and progresses slowly over time and can affect the way that a person moves.”Dr. Kathleen Woschkolup, Neurologist, Bon Secours St. Francis Health
Dr. Kathleen Woschkolup, a neurologist, says the disease is more common in older adults.
“One of the biggest risk factors is actually age,” Dr. Woschkolup said.
It is still possible to be diagnosed at a young age, like actor Michael J. Fox who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 29.
“I have a lot of patients who are in their 30s and 40s with Parkinson’s,” Dr. Woschkolup said.
Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s disease than women.
The disease itself is not fatal, but complications can be serious and greatly impact your quality of life.
“It cannot be prevented, but it can be managed,” Dr. Woschkolup said.
In the early stages, it can be hard to tell if you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease, but there are some warning signs.
“I would always look for a tremor or a tremor that becomes more progressive, any issues with balancing, walking where you notice that you’re starting to slow down… having balance issues, shuffling your feet, you know stooped posture. So anything that you see that you’re feeling like you’re not moving as well as you did before,” Dr. Woschkolup said.
It’s crucial to reach out to your primary care physician if you notice any of these warning signs.
“The sooner that they can be treated and start…they tend to do better in the long run,” Dr. Woschkolup said.
The cause of Parkinson’s remains largely unknown. There is no cure and no drug to reverse the effects, but symptoms can be managed through medication, surgery, and even lifestyle modifications.
“Exercise has been shown on multiple research and data to slow the progress of the disease and patients do better longer. So, the sooner you’re able to get those types of things started and implement them,” Dr. Woschkolup said.
Dr. Woschkolup says it is a myth that everyone with Parkinson’s disease has tremors. Symptoms, disease severity, and progression vary from person to person.