World Parkinson’s Day – April 11, 2015. Save The Date!

This World Parkinson’s Day 2015 in Kenya and East Africa is supported by Africa Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (APDF). The aim of this day is to raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease, promoting a greater understanding of this condition and how it can affect a person. Get your ticket(s) here>>

Parkinson’s is a disease in which nerve cells that deliver the neurotransmitter dopamine to other cells are reduced in numbers. As cell death spreads to ever larger parts of the brain more centers are affected. This results in an aggravation of motor and non-motor disorders.

Following a reduction in dopamine levels, there are many non-motor symptoms which can precede the onset of motor Parkinson’s disease for many years.

Non-Motor Symptoms Include:

  • REM sleep behavioural disorder
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Automatic dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Impaired Vision
  • Attention Deficit
  • Difficulties planning and carrying out ordinary tasks

The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s are based around involuntary movements or rigidity (in which muscles of the body ‘freeze up’ and do not work). The impact of these motor symptoms in the day to day life of a person with Parkinson’s is immense; this awareness event aims in part, to make more people understand the severity of these symptoms.

For example, a person may not be able to perform a simple activity like crossing the road in case their ‘feet freeze’ making them unable to walk. When shopping, they may be unable to take money out from a purse or wallet to pay for items due to involuntary arm and hand movements.

Symptoms are unpredictable and can vary on a time scale as short as one minute.

Many people who have heard of Parkinson’s disease associate this condition with the physical symptoms of tremors or rigidity. These symptoms may be shown as head bobbing or other sudden involuntary jerking movements. World Parkinson’s Day aims to make more people aware of the non-motor symptoms.

Life With Parkinson’s

For those living with Parkinson’s disease, some non-motor symptoms can be worse for the sufferer than the physical motor problems.

Medical treatments for Parkinson’s therapy can trigger or aggravate some non-motor symptoms. Non-motor side effects from treatments may take the form of impulse control disorders. These are a set of psychiatric disorders which may include compulsive behaviours such as compulsive gambling, excessive shopping, and sex addiction.

For some, the treatments can lead to other bad lifestyle habits such as eating out, drinking, and partying, to excess. In many cases, the person is unable to afford this kind of lifestyle creating further problems. When people experience this kind of behaviour they sometimes report that it’s as if something else was controlling their behaviour.

However, without proper medication, the motor symptoms can quickly return (typically within an hour). In terms of treatment, a person with Parkinson’s disease is ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’; they have a choice and each one gives an unsatisfactory outcome. They will either endure the loss of motor control or experience psychiatric problems should they medicate. Once on medication, a person may become fearful of possible consequences if they decide to stop this treatment.

Parkinson’s Disease Can Happen To Anybody.

World Parkinson’s Awareness Day aims to raise global awareness of Parkinson’s disease. In general, members of the public have very limited knowledge about this condition, especially in Kenya and the greater East Africa region.

If so many people are unaware of the key motor symptoms of Parkinson’s then gathering support for people with this condition is made much harder. It is also likely that people are unaware of the non-motor symptoms that people with Parkinson’s may endure (including the side effects of those on medication).

We hope that Parkinson’s Awareness Day will promote advocacy and influence the decision of relevant policymakers where appropriate.

The day also provides an opportunity to raise funds for management, research projects, and resources.

Author avatar
Hellen Mwithiga

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