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Parkinson's disease: what are the symptoms?

The charity is launching a new campaign to raise awareness about Parkinson's Photo: Parkinson's UK

People in Wales are the worst in the UK when it comes to awareness of Parkinson's disease. That's according to the charity Parkinson's UK, which found 83% of people here have little or no knowledge of the condition.

The charity is warning this often alienates people with the disease. 'Because Parkinson's is so poorly understood, even those with the condition tell us all too often that they are on the receiving end of those embarrassed and uncomfortable looks', it says.

Steve Ford, Chief Executive of Parkinson's UK describes a 'whole range of issues people experience on a day-to-day basis' if they have the disease.

What is Parkinson's?

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological condition - which means it worsens over time, although it doesn't directly cause people to die. Symptoms normally begin slowly, and develop gradually, often in no particular order.

  • Parkinson's affects over 6,000 people in Wales - one in 500 of the population
  • One in 20 people is under the age of 40 when they are diagnosed

Why do people get it?

It's not known why people get it, and there's currently no cure.

People with Parkinson's don't have enough of a chemical called dopamine, because some nerve cells in their brain have died. This lack of nerve cells causes the symptoms of the disease to appear.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms are to do with movement. Without dopamine, people can find that their movements become slower, so it takes longer to do things.

  • Tremor (shaking) - it can't be controlled and usually worsens over time
  • Slowness of movement - often causes people to walk with short, shuffling steps, and affect facial expressions
  • Rigidity - stiffness and inflexibility of muscles, and can cause pain and cramping

There are many other physical symptoms of Parkinson's, ranging from bladder and bowel problems, to too much sweat or extremely dry skin.

Mental health problems can also arise from Parkinson's, including depression, dementia, anxiety and hallucinations.

People with Parkinson's can also suffer from sleep issues, including daytime sleepiness and intense, frightening dreams.

There is variation from person to person in the order that symptoms appear and progress. They often start on one side of the body and go on to affect both sides.

Jenni McCabe from Newport has Parkinson's. She described the issues she faces with her walking pattern.

For much more information, visit the 'Signs and Symptoms' section on the Parkinson's UK website.

There is also an explanation of the information and support available from the charity and other services.

The campaign

To combat what it describes as a 'woeful' lack of awareness about the disease, Parkinson's UK has launched a new campaign to show the impacts it has on people's everyday lives.

The adverts read: 'Parkinson's mixes up the messages the brain sends to the body, so everyday tasks become incredibly difficult.'

'Parkinson's might not kill you. But it can make living hell.'

The adverts take everyday images and mix them up Credit: Parkinson's UK
They aim to replicate the problems people with Parkinson's have in everyday life Credit: Parkinson's UK
Adverts will be appearing on billboards and in newspapers Credit: Parkinson's UK
Research has shown 'just how little the public know' about the condition Credit: Parkinson's UK

For more information about any aspect of Parkinson's disease, visit the Parkinson's UK website.