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Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

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Quality of care for Veteran’s includes raising awareness around important health topics. By highlighting some of the national health awareness campaigns each month, Veterans can get ideas, information, and resources on a variety of health matters.

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, and we want to raise Veteran’s awareness on this serious neurological disorder. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system usually categorized as a movement disorder.  It develops gradually when certain nerve cells in the brain die and it’s thought to be caused by a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but genes and environmental factors may play a role. Approximately 40,000 veterans with Parkinson’s disease receive care at the VA each year.

Risk factors that may contribute to Parkinson's disease are:

  • Being 60 or older.
  • Having close family members with Parkinson's disease.
  • Being a male.
  • Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides.

Symptoms may include:

  • Tremor.  One sign of Parkinson's disease is a tremor of your hand when it is at rest.
  • Slowed movement. Over time, Parkinson's disease may reduce your ability to move and slow down your movement.  You may also drag your feet as you walk, making it difficult to move.
  • Rigid or stiff muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in parts of your body. Stiff muscles can reduce your range of motion and cause you pain.
  • Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may be affected, or you may have balance problems.
  • Loss of automatic movements.  You may have a reduced ability to perform movements such as blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech changes. You may have speech problems such as - speaking too softly or too quickly, slurring your words or pausing before speaking.
  • Writing changes. Your writing may appear small and become difficult.

Medication and exercise can help those suffering from Parkinson’s.  Medication can replace the dopamine no longer made in the brain, or help the brain use the existing dopamine more effectively. Some surgical procedures can be done to relieve symptoms, as well. Your neurologist can work with you to find the best therapies for you.

Resources – (click links below to open in new tab)

Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers - VA

Parkinson's Disease - MyhealtheVet