If you are over the age of 65, your odds of having Parkinson’s disease, or PD as it is widely known as in the PD community, is three out of 100. However, approximately ten percent of PD cases are reported to be in people under the age of 40.
How do you know whether you might have PD? The symptoms of parkinsonism (as it is commonly referred to in the medical circle) is a tremor in either or both side(s) of your body, difficulty in walking (slowness, stiffness, tripping, dragging foot), bradykinesia, and rigidity.
Age used to be a common factor in that most patients tended to be over the age of 65. However, having a celebrity like Michael J. Fox and advocates like him has brought much awareness to the effects of the disease and we are becoming more educated, in that people under 65 are experiencing the effects of this disease as well.
Research also shows that men may be facing the risks of PD twice as much as women. Studies are showing that estrogen may be a sort of protection for women until their menopausal years. PD has shown up in a higher rate of women who have had hysterectomies. Studies have shown that PD progression is quicker in men than in women. Other differences show that while men are at a greater risk for rigidity and tremor, women tend to be more at risk for gait disturbance.
Many factors come into play in regards to family history. People with siblings or parents with PD are at a higher risk for developing the disease, except for those with family members who developed the disease at an older age. Their risk factor for Parkinson’s disease is average, with Caucasians leading the pack among varying cultures.
While no one is recommending nor promoting the following, coffee drinkers and smokers tend to have a lower risk for developing this disease. For whatever reason, researchers have yet to understand why smokers appear to have a 40% lower risk for Parkinson's disease and coffee lovers about a 30% less risk.
So, with the risk factors having been noted, exactly how is PD diagnosed?
When a movement disorder specialist performs a neurological exam, a medical history is recorded, followed by a physical exam.