WXYZ — Nearly one million Americans live with Parkinson's disease, and awareness can make all the difference.
April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, and April 11 is World Parkinson's Day. The disease might sound scary at first, but delaying help can be even scarier.
"The one thing I can say is burying your head in the sand and ignoring the symptoms is probably not the best choice because Parkinson's is a highly treatable condition, and it is one that should be recognized and diagnosed if the symptoms are there," Dr. Aaron Ellenbogen explained to 7 Action News.
The Movement Disorders Specialist at the Michigan Institute for Neurological Disorders says resting tremor shows up in about 70 percent of patients with Parkinson's. It's one of the two most common signs of the disease, and it happens when your hands, arms or legs shake when they are at rest. Dr. Ellenbogen says it’s important to note: Tremor alone is not always a sign of Parkinson’s.
The other most common sign of the disease is moving slower. Take note if it’s taking you longer to get dressed or get somewhere on foot. Shuffling feet are also a good indication that it might be time to call the doctor.
Less obvious signs and symptoms of Parkinson's can show up more than a decade before motor symptoms arrive. Dr. Ellenbogen says to pay attention to things like regular constipation, bladder issues — or even loss of smell.
"What we recognize today is that there's this phase before motor symptoms arrive, and the problem is that these are very non-specific symptoms that can be associated with aging," Dr. Ellenbogen explained.
Experts around the world are working to gain a better understanding of the disease, with a common goal of slowing progression of Parkinson's or stopping it altogether.
Two kinds of research are underway. The first focuses on better understanding what triggers Parkinson’s and how it progresses. Other research involves testing new treatments through clinical trials.
Despite no cure, Dr. Ellenbogen encourages people diagnosed with the disease to remain optimistic.
"If someone is diagnosed with Parkinson's it doesn't mean that all hope is lost. There are certainly things they can do to take the bull by the horns. In particular, we find that exercise is a critical piece of managing Parkinson's.”
Along with staying active, the expert says eating a healthy and balanced diet will go a long way.
Above all, Dr. Ellenbogen wants to stress one message: Don’t ignore signs or symptoms of Parkinson's or any disease. Always be honest with your doctor so you can start tackling any potential health issues sooner than later.