6 Secrets of Parkinson's

FRESNO, Calif.

Roberta Perkins has been battling Parkinson's disease for the past 13 years.

"Everybody expects you're going to shake, that's it," Perkins told Ivanhoe. "I didn't have tremors."

That's one of the many secrets of Parkinson's. It's far more than a simple movement disorder.

The real symptoms of Parkinson's are anxiety, depression, sweating, erectile dysfunction and bladder problems.

"I refer to them as invisible symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Those are the worst symptoms for patients, and they're often overlooked by family members and physicians because you can't see them," Melissa Nirenberg, M.D., Ph.D., from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell College, told Ivanhoe.

The next secret: strange side effects. Some common Parkinson's meds can actually spark addictions.

"They're compulsively gambling, compulsively shopping or buying, compulsively eating, and there's even a something called 'hobby-ism,' where a person's hobby takes over," Nirenberg said.

Perkins' problems were cleaning and eating. She gained 25 pounds.

Another secret: people with Parkinson's have a higher melanoma risk and should see a dermatologist regularly. Other recent studies show Parkinson's ups the risk of breast cancer.

Finally: exercise. Reports show it improves symptoms and may slow the progression of the disease.

As for Perkins, she has her own secret for survival. "I don't feel that I'm sick in any way. I do more in a day than people who don't have Parkinson's," she told Ivanhoe.

True or false: only older people get Parkinson's? The answer: false. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of cases occur in people under 40. Another misconception: Parkinson's is fatal. Although complications can lead to death, most people live 20 to 30 years with the disease.

Parkinson's Disease Foundation
(800) 457-6676

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