Living with Parkinson's Disease
Once you are diagnosed with PD, your focus should be on improving your symptoms and maintaining an active and positive lifestyle. Although there is currently no cure for PD, it is possible to successfully manage symptoms through healthy choices, medications, and, in select cases, medical procedures.
Learning how to manage daily living with Parkinson's
Living with PD involves:
- Learning how to manage your symptoms.
- Lifestyle, including regular exercise and a healthy diet.
- Medications and other treatments.
- A strong partnership with your healthcare team.
- Participating in Clinical Trials.
- Finding local resources and support groups.
Although there are typical symptoms of PD, these can vary greatly from individual to individual—both in terms of their intensity and how they progress. Motor symptoms generally involve movement, while non-motor symptoms do not.
Motor symptoms typically include tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (slow movement), postural instability (balance problems), and walking/gait problems. Non motor symptoms include, sleep problems, altered sense of smell, fatigue, depression / anxiety, impaired mental precesses, gastrointestinal issues and others.
Starting or continuing a schedule of regular exercise can make a big difference in your mobility, both in the short and long term. People with PD also report the physical (and mental) benefits of swimming, cycling, dancing, and even non-contact boxing. In fact, several research studies have shown that regular exercise routines of walking, strength training, or Tai Chi can help to maintain, or even improve, mobility, balance, and coordination in people with PD.
There is no one diet that is recommended for PD, but healthy eating in general is always a good choice. For example, eating several servings of fruits and vegetables a day increases fiber intake and can help alleviate constipation, in addition to promoting general health. Also, drinking plenty of water or other non-alcoholic and caffeine-free beverages ensures adequate hydration and may reduce the likelihood of muscle cramping. Also, fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, such as blueberries, spinach, and green tea, may also be beneficial to your diet.
Although there is no cure for PD, there are several classes of medications available for the successful treatment of motor symptoms throughout the course of the disease. Be sure to talk with your general neurologist or movement disorder specialist about your most troubling symptoms and your goals for medical therapy. Some medications for PD are available in generic forms or through special programs, so that they are more affordable.
Assembling a capable health care team
Developing and maintaining relationships with experts in the field of Parkinson's disease can make life easier and more enjoyable. Your team members and the role or roles they assume are likely to change as your symptoms change and as the disease progresses. Some will go the distance, staying with you throughout your life with Parkinson's. Others will be sprinters, accompanying you as you manage particular symptoms, emotions, or transitions.
Your team can include:
- Movement Disorder Specialist (a neurologist who specializes in Parkinson's disease)
- Physical Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
- Speech Therapist
- Social Worker
Contact an Information & Referral Center (I&R) near you to find out more about each of these health practitioners and for referral information.
Participate in Clinical Trials
Clinical trials also contribute to the further treatment and understanding of PD and potentially provide access to the newest therapies. For more information and to learn if a clinical trial may be right for you, consult with your healthcare team.
The following websites provide information about ongoing clinical trials and how you or someone you know can enroll:
- The NIH Registry of Clinical Trials
- Parkinson's Disease Biomarkers Program
- Fox Trial Finder
Find local support & resources
APDA Chapters, Advanced Centers for Research and Information and Referral Centers offer comprehensive support programs for patients and their caregivers. Exercise groups, educational forums, support groups, and information tailored to meet your changing needs. Find an APDA Center near you or call 800-223-2732.
APDA helps thousands of people each year who live with the burden of Parkinson's Disease—and we depend on the generosity of donors like you. If you'd like to lend a helping hand, join our cause and donate today.