Parkinson’s Disease Awareness


Parkinson’s Disease Awareness

April 11, 2018

By Karen Wilkinson, RN, NHA, CLNC – CareerSmart® Learning Contributor

The mention of Parkinson’s disease brings to mind some very famous people who have been diagnosed with the disease.  Actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed at age 30; Champion Boxer Muhammad Ali, at age 42; Attorney General Janet Reno, at age 57; and Christian Evangelist Billy Graham, at age 72.  Add to the list Cartoonist Charles Schulz, and Musicians Linda Ronstadt and Neil Diamond.  April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and because several of these celebrities have publicly shared their own Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, the spotlight now also shines on the disease.  The Michael J. Fox Foundation works to fund research to find a cure for the disease, and has contributed more than $750 million since 2000.[1]  And since 1997, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center has been recognized as a National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence, providing Parkinson’s treatment and research, and serving as a resource center for patients and families of those afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.[2]  In 2017, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center conducted a national Parkinson’s disease awareness survey that found that 82 percent of the survey respondents believed Ali’s diagnosis had an impact on Parkinson’s awareness, and many reported being inspired by his life in the face of adversity. [3]

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that has several functions, including control of muscle movement.  The loss of dopamine results in the cardinal symptoms of resting tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement (bradykinesia), and impaired balance.  Symptoms of PD usually appear gradually on one side of the body before involving the other side.  At the later stage of the disease, depending on the severity and the area of the brain affected, cognitive impairment and dementia may become evident. There is no current definitive test to diagnose PD, so diagnosis is made through careful medical and neurological screening and by identifying the presence of two or more of the cardinal symptoms. [4]

Parkinson’s disease exacts a high cost both physically and financially affecting about one million Americans, adding nearly 60,000 new cases every year, and costing almost $25 billion annually in direct and indirect costs.  Statistically, men are 50 percent more likely than women to be diagnosed, and the incidence generally increases with age.  However, approximately four percent of those with Parkinson’s disease receive a diagnosis before age 50.[5]

At this time there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease.  Medication can effectively control many symptoms, and surgical interventions such as deep brain stimulation may be utilized if medication is ineffective.  The Michael  J. Fox Foundation recommends that those diagnosed with PD find a neurologist that is experienced in movement disorders who will collaborate with the patient on a medication plan.  Other coping strategies include participating in clinical trials, exercising and engaging in challenging activities, reducing stress, seeking counseling as needed, learning about the disease, and becoming a self-advocate.[6]



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[1] The Michael J. Fox Foundation.  Our Impact.  Retrieved April 11, 2018 from

[2] Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.  About.  Retrieved April 11, 2018 from

[3] The Barrow Newsroom. (2017). Parkinson’s Awareness Has Grown Since Muhammad Ali’s Death.  Retrieved April 11, 2018 from

[4] The Michael J. Fox Foundation.  Parkinson’s Diagnosis Questions.  Retrieved April 11 2018 from

[5] Parkinson’s Foundation.  (2018).  Statistics.  Retrieved April 11, 2018 from

[6] The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Parkinson’s Diagnosis Questions.  Retrieved April 11, 2018 from

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