People With Signs of Parkinson's Wait to See Doctor

Survey Shows Many Are Reluctant to See Doctor After Experiencing Tremors

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

April 6, 2011 -- A majority of people who experience ongoing tremors that could be an early warning sign of Parkinson's disease say they would wait to see their doctors, according to a new survey.

In a survey of 1,007 people ages 18 and older, 60% said they would wait to see their doctor if they experienced consistent regular tremors. That is surprising because 81% of those queried indicated they were aware that tremors are a sign of Parkinson's.

According to the survey by the National Parkinson Foundation:

  • 61% of men said they would adopt a wait-and-see posture, even though men are almost twice as likely as women to develop Parkinson's disease.
  • 55% of women said they would wait to see their doctor after noticing tremors.
  • 58.1% in the general population, including men and women, said they would wait after noticing tremors before going to a doctor, compared to 37.5% who would go "right away."

Parkinson's Disease Symptoms

Parkinson's tends to develop slowly, with subtle symptoms showing up at first, such as tremors, shaking, trouble moving or walking, loss of facial expression, dizziness, fainting, or constipation.

Other early signs include stooping or walking in a hunched-over fashion, trouble sleeping, small handwriting, loss of smell, and speaking in an unusually soft or low voice.

The survey shows that only a third of Americans are familiar with at least half of the early warning signs of the disease. People are least aware that a loss of smell could be a warning sign of the disease and that sleeping trouble, dizziness, and fainting also were warning signs.

"People should get an assessment as soon as they experience symptoms of Parkinson's disease," Michael Okun, MD, medical director for the National Parkinson Foundation, says in a news release. "Research shows that getting treatment early can make a difference."

Parkinson's disease is a result of changes in the brain that scientists know can be associated with both genetics and environmental toxins, according to the National Parkinson Foundation.

More than half of those surveyed were unaware of the important role that environmental toxins play in developing Parkinson's.

According to the survey, 44.8% of respondents said they were very afraid of getting Parkinson's in their lifetime, compared to 53.5% for Alzheimer's, 55.8% for stroke, and 58.8% for cancer. Only 19% said they were very afraid of getting diabetes and 37.6% were very afraid of getting heart disease.

Educating People About Parkinson's

"This survey underscores the need for more education and ongoing research to provide treatment options that slow or stop the disease," Joyce Oberdorf, president and CEO of the National Parkinson Foundation, says in the news release. "The National Parkinson Foundation is dedicated to supporting research that will lead to earlier diagnosis and a better quality of life for those affected."

She says greater awareness of the disease and its symptoms is the goal of the foundation in April, which is Parkinson's Awareness Month.

In most people, Parkinson's -- a neurodegenerative brain disorder -- progresses slowly and occurs when nerve cells in the brain that make the chemical dopamine are destroyed.

It is the most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's and affects an estimated 1 million people in the U.S. and up to 6 million worldwide.

There is no cure, and between 50,000 and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed every year in the U.S.


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SOURCES: News release, National Parkinson Foundation.National Parkinson Foundation Survey Questions.

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