Living with Parkinson’s Disease

This week (10-17 April) is Parkinson’s Awareness Week, with World Parkinson’s Day celebrated on April 11. In Australia, Parkinson’s Australia is the national peak body and charity representing Australians living with Parkinson’s, and has a wide range of information sheets and advice available on their website: www.parkinsons.org.au

1551_Living_with_Parkinsons_diseaseParkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system (CNS), and it is one of many neurological conditions. In Parkinson’s disease, nerve cells in the brain degenerate. There is no known cause, however there are many theories, and it is generally thought that multiple factors are responsible. Increasing age, being male and head injuries may increase the risk, while genetics may also play a role. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease have insufficient levels of the chemical dopamine. This lack of dopamine means people can have difficulty controlling their movements and moving freely. Impact on other body systems can also occur, such as on sense of smell, thinking and mood.

According to Parkinson’s Australia approximately 70,000 Australians live with Parkinson’s disease. The average age of diagnosis is 65 years. However younger people can also be affected, and the term ‘young onset’ is used for those diagnosed between 21-40.

Scientists and researchers have not yet been able to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, treatments are available to manage symptoms and assist people to live a fulfilling and productive life.

Each case of Parkinson’s disease is unique, with everyone exhibiting varying symptoms. For example, not all people get tremors and for some, the first symptom can be movement problems. Some of the main symptoms include:

  • tremor, or shaking
  • rigidity, or muscle stiffness
  • bradykinesia, or slowness of movement
  • freezing
  • stooped posture
  • shuffling gait
  • lethargy.

Parkinson’s disease can be disabling. However, there are many tools which can lead to better quality of life for those with Parkinson’s disease, and your local pharmacy can help.

With modern medicine, symptoms can be managed. The main aim of medicinal therapies is to increase the level of dopamine. As Parkinson’s disease affects each person differently it is important to individually tailor medicine regimens accordingly. As the disease progresses, and dopamine production is reduced, it is quite common for people to need their medicine regimes altered.

Your local pharmacy is your health destination. Clearly, one of the key aspects of managing Parkinson’s disease is medicine management. Medicine must be taken at the correct time to allow for absorption time and the attainment of therapeutic levels. Factors such as diet also need to be considered when taking medicine. Pharmacists are medicines experts and can assist you to gain the maximum benefit from the medicine, while keeping side effects to a minimum. Your pharmacist can help with advice and counselling – discussing what the medicine is for, what benefits should be expected, possible side effects and their management, drug interactions and how to keep an accurate record so information can be given to the doctor at each visit.

Pharmacies also offer professional services which can help people living with Parkinson’s disease maintain their independence. For example, home delivery and medicine management services such as dose administration aids (DAAs) may be available. Your local pharmacy can also be a point of contact to reduce social isolation and depression which can be experienced in Parkinson’s disease. Visit Eden Rise Pharmacy and find out how we can help.