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A Patient's Guide To Parkinson's Diagnosis

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When I think back to the time of my diagnosis almost 16 years ago at the age of 27, I remember the fear and anxiety that dominated my thoughts despite the fact that my diagnosis was fairly typical and unencumbered. For many that distress is amplified by a lack of information. I've developed this guide to help in the process.

Parkinson's Disease Spotlight10

You Must Be An Active Participant!

Tuesday April 15, 2014

You must be actively involved in the management of your disease in order to live well with Parkinson's. Actively seeking solutions to problems that arise and taking on a proactive approach to life in general is vital. It takes work be it physical commitment or emotional growth to overcome the hurdles that this disease challenges us with.

Unfortunately at this time, there is no cure for Parkinson's and it falls on us as patients to do whatever we can to optimize our quality of life. You must for example incorporate those lifestyle changes that you do have control over - such as reducing your stress, maximizing your health in general through diet and exercise and proper sleep. Be proactive when it comes to self-care. Keep up with your medical appointments. Take your medications on time. Build it into your everyday commitment because scheduled consistency is so important. Through these means you can have significant influence on the social, emotional and physical impact of this disease.

In other words take control of those variables are within your control. I may not have control over my diagnosis or my symptoms much of the time but I do have control over certain aspects that if optimized, can improve my life experience.

 

My PD Community

Sunday March 30, 2014

Having lived with this disease for over 16 years, I have been privileged to having become a part of a uniquely supportive Parkinson's community. This impressive group is made up of people of differing backgrounds, a spectrum of age, ethnicity, vocation and geographic location. We are all united by this challenge that we face. We are there to support each other through the difficult times and also share in our determination not to let this disease win, to define us.
Many of those in my community were faced with this diagnosis at a young age and we share the trials and  struggles that are unique to our stage of life. These disease management and psychosocial issues may differ from our older counterparts but I feel an equal bond with those in my circle who may be a little older but who are on this journey as well.  We are not alone.

Genetics Loads The Gun

Saturday March 29, 2014

More than 15 years ago, at the start of my medical career and expecting my first child, the neurologist confirmed what the first clinician had suspected - the tremor I had been experiencing over the preceding year was Young Onset Parkinson's Disease. Life changed forever as I now faced a progressive neurological disease in my twenties. Soon after my own diagnosis, my father also received the same news. He too had Parkinson's, yet there was no previous family history as far as we could recall. But still, genetics seemed to have loaded the gun but what exactly pulled the trigger?
As a physician I've seen first hand the role that environment and genetics play in determining our health. In fact the cause of all illnesses can really be placed on a spectrum with environment and genetics contributing to varying degrees. Reality is that adverse environmental exposures very often pull that proverbial trigger and therefore we must be very vigilant in reducing our exposure to environmental toxins both for ourselves and our families.

A Patient's Guide to Parkinson's Diagnosis

Tuesday March 4, 2014

Diagnosing Parkinson's disease is not an easy process particularly since there really is no definitive test for this illness.  As physicians we rely on our patients' descriptions of their symptoms, what we see on physical exam and we sometimes require neuroimaging like a DaTscan to help decide if the diagnosis is indeed Parkinson's.  As patients we often go through a time of uncertainty particularly early in the disease or if we have any atypical features.  All in all, it can be a frustrating and frightening time as we are put through reams of clinical testing as our bodies seem to disengage from our brains.

Fear of the unknown and trepidation about the possibilities are very real issues we face during this process of diagnosis.  In an effort to provide some insight and hopefully allay some of that anxiety, I've started a patient's guide to Parkinson's disease which discusses the diagnostic process in general, symptoms of PD, the signs seen on physical examination, the neuroimaging that is sometimes necessary, the differential diagnosis that physicians consider and how this whole process will be revolutionized with the discovery of a disease biomarker.

I hope this proves to be a valuable resource and I will continue to expand on its contents.  Suggestions and feedback always appreciated.

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