Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Nebraska is committed to helping people at the local level to gain the knowledge and access the services you, your family and your caregivers need. And like most things, the more you know about Parkinson’s, the better your journey. Parkinson’s disease is a neurological syndrome that progresses over time. Since it is a movement disorder, it impacts a person’s ability to participate in routine tasks such as writing, walking and other activities of daily living. Symptoms vary from person to person but often include rigid muscles, slowness of movement, loss of balance, tremors and soft speech.

More than 1.5 million people have been diagnosed with the disease. Though people with Parkinson’s disease are typically older, one in every 10 people diagnosed is under the age of 40. Those individuals who are diagnosed earlier in life may experience the disease somewhat differently (for instance, more abnormal posturing or cramping of the muscles, a lower rate of dementia, and earlier onset of abnormal movements (dyskinesia) related to the use of medication). The experience of living with Parkinson’s disease is different for each person affected, and while medications can help suppress symptoms, none have been shown to slow or stop the disease from progressing. However, remaining active through exercise can greatly increase a person’s ability to maintain independence and participate in the things they enjoy.

We are committed to helping patients and loved ones cope, and to offer help in maintaining your quality of life. When it comes to Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s Nebraska wants you to know you are never alone.

Common Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Motor Symptoms

  • Tremor
  • Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
  • Rigidity and freezing in place
  • Stooped, shuffling gait
  • Decreased arm swing when walking
  • Difficulty arising from a chair
  • Micrographia (small handwriting)
  • Lack of facial expression
  • Slowed daily activities
  • Difficulty turning in bed

Nonmotor Symptoms

  • Diminished sense of smell
  • Low voice volume
  • Painful foot cramps
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Drooling
  • Increased sweating
  • Urinary frequency/urgency
  • Hallucinations
  • Low blood pressure/dizziness

Stages of Parkinson’s Disease, Focus on Motor Symptoms

Stage 1: During the earliest stage, the symptoms are often mild and tend to go unnoticed. Slight tremors or other movement symptoms may occur one one side of the body.

Stage 2: Tremors or other movement symptoms become stronger and affect both sides of the body. Changes in how a person walks or moves is recognizably different as daily tasks become more difficult.

Stage 3: As the disease continues to progress, balance becomes more challenging and movements become even more slowed. The person may still live independently but functions like eating or dressing themselves become more burdensome.

Stage 4: Often times, this becomes the transitional period where the person is no longer able to live alone. Walkers or other aides are used daily to help support a person’s limited mobility.

Stage 5: Patients are confined to a wheelchair or bed, and require a caregiver’s presence around the clock.

Parkinson’s Registry

The first state to implement a Parkinson’s Registry, Nebraska is able to capture reportable data and identify people with the disease. This is a required action by physicians and pharmacists to report any individual using drugs associated with the treatment of Parkinson’s. Through the registry, we know that more than 14,500 people have been confirmed to be diagnosed with the disease right here in Nebraska. This knowledge can help us offer our resources to help them thrive with this disease. Access to the database is strictly limited to protect patient confidentiality.

Now What?: Understanding Parkinson’s Disease 

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease is an episode from NET’s series Now What? with Dr. Anna Fisher. She leads a conversation with a Panel of Experts about what Parkinson’s Disease is, what some of the early signs are, the types of treatments that exist, the stages of progression, and what research is on the horizon.

We are proud that two of our board members, Dr. Michelle Faulkner and Dan Lombardo, were on the show’s panel!

You can view this program here at any time.

Health and Wellness

Being proactive in your journey with Parkinson’s can have a great affect on your abilities. Your diet, exercise regime and overall focus on wellness will help keep your life in motion. And we’re here to help with classes and information geared toward you.

Working with a healthcare provider familiar with Parkinson’s disease to help determine the right foods, timing of meals and quantities can help you make sure you’re feeling good and getting the most benefit from your medications. Parkinson’s Nebraska can help you connect with a provider in your area.

To support your balance and mobility, regular physical exercise is a must. Choose movements and exercises that support flexibility, strength training and aerobic activity.  Your options vary greatly and include running, biking, tai chi, dance, pilates, boxing and more. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a library of videos that address exercise for individuals living with Parkinson’s.

Find a Clinical Trial  (Type “Parkinson’s AND Location (ex. Omaha) into search box.  Seek studies that are in the “recruiting” phase.)

Can Exercise Treat Parkinson’s (Good Morning America)

Rock Steady Boxing (ABC News)

Tango – Parkinson’s Therapy (Washington University, St. Louis)

Parkinson’s – Is Exercise the Answer? (PBS Frontline)

Big 10 Network “Punching Parkinson’s” (Rock Steady Boxing – Purdue)