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Early On-Set Parkinson’s Disease

By: Dolores Hoffman

Parkinson’s disease is not just an old person’s disease anymore. Early on-set Parkinson’s is becoming more prevalent in younger people. Each year, 6,000 to 12,000 under the age of 40 are diagnosed with this disease. Parkinson’s occurs when a person’s brain slowly stops producing Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. With less dopamine, a person has less ability to regulate their movements and emotions.


With no family history, Gina Endres of Vineland knows all too well about this. At the age of 40, she started to experience subtle symptoms of the disease. It took two years, several doctors, and many tests to reach a diagnosis. Ironically, her first symptom was not detected by her but through one of her students who noticed she was holding her hand a certain way. For Gina, it was something that had gone undetected until that moment. Some Parkinson’s suffers have tremors while others have stiffening primarily on one side of the body. Gina has episodes that effect the left side of her body. Although she feels them coming, she has little time to prepare for them. While she is managing her daily life with the disease, the emotion aspect is difficult. Her husband and three children have had to adjust to her challenges while Gina struggles with reversed roles.


Here are a few symptoms of early on-set Parkinson’s Disease:

Tremors. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in your hand or fingers. You may notice a back-and-forth rubbing of your thumb and forefinger, known as a pill-rolling tremor. The tremor associated with Parkinson’s is mostly when your hand is relaxed (at rest).

Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can limit your range of motion and cause you pain. Rigidity of the muscles in the arms, legs, and body makes it harder to move. Getting out of bed in the morning, or standing up from a chair, can be difficult.

Persistent neck pain
Parkinson's-related neck pain differs from common neck pain mainly in that it persists, unlike a pulled muscle or cramp, which should go away after a day or two. Some people experience numbness and tingling while some, like Gina, experience achiness or discomfort that reaches down the shoulder and arm. Stretching helps to relieve some of the stiffness.

Lack of facial expression 
Loss of dopamine can affect the facial muscles, making them stiff and slow, resulting in a lack of expression.  As an early symptom, the changes are subtle.  A person with Parkinson’s may look bored or disapproving however it’s the muscles that become immobilized, leaving the patient with a contrary appearance. 

Gina now manages her disease with regimented medications and no longer defines herself by how much she can accomplish but by how relying on family and friends brings about stronger and deeper relationships.  With the help of advancements in treatment, her goal is to live a long and rewarding life despite having Parkinson'sdisease.

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 August 2017 16:55

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