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What To Know About Parkinson’s Disease


According to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, Inc., Parkinson’s disease (known as PD) affects more than 1.5 million Americans and almost 50,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological movement disorder that causes the gradual loss of cells in the brain and often becomes increasingly disabling over time.
The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremors, slowness of movement (bradykinesia), stiffness of the arms, legs or trunk, and trouble with balance.
“I was diagnosed with PD when I was only thirty-four,” says Kay Mixson Jenkins, author of the new children’s book Who Is Pee Dee? “This devastating disease changed my life and the lives of my family. My daily activities became more and more difficult—and sometimes impossible.”
To help her children understand this chronic disease, Ms. Jenkins decided to write this book. The story teaches children as well as their families about Parkinson’s disease through the adventures of a young boy named Colt and his toy panda bear, Pee Dee.

Unfortunately, the causes of Parkinson’s disease still remain unknown. Yet, many scientists and researchers believe that genetic and environmental factors can be linked to this illness. What is known about PD is that:
• Most of the patients are diagnosed after the age of sixty.
• About fifteen percent of people with the condition develop young-onset Parkinson’s disease before reaching age fifty.
• Parkinson’s disease is rarely seen in children.
• There’s no definitive test for Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosis is based on a patient’s symptoms and medical history.
• The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are shaking hands, a slowing down of movement, stiffness and a loss of balance.
• PD is a progressive disorder; its symptoms worsen over time.
• Depression is common in Parkinson’s sufferers.
• PD has been called a “family disorder” because it affects not just the patient but those who care for him or her.
• Regular exercise and physical therapy can help stave off the loss of motor control.
• Keeping active and eating a good diet are vital in the management of Parkinson’s disease.

The latest facts about Parkinson’s disease are:
• Parkinson’s disease is the second-largest (after Alzheimer’s) degenerative neurological disorder in the USA.
• Parkinson’s disease affects more people than multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s’ disease (ALS) put together.
• A new case of Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed in the USA every nine minutes.
• Parkinson’s disease affects men and women in almost equal numbers.
• A link between genetic and environmental causes of Parkinson’s disease has been found by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
• A recent study suggests that PET scans can improve early diagnosis of PD.
• There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but there are a number of effective medicines that help to ease its symptoms.
• Surgery can ease the symptoms, but it’s not a cure.
• Some studies have found that African-American and Asians are less likely than Caucasians to develop PD.
• Medications to treat Parkinson’s disease can cost a patient between $1,000 and $7,000 per year.
• Parkinson’s disease costs about $25 billion each year.

“Parkinson’s disease is not an easy condition to live with. It affects not only patients but the whole family,” says Ms. Jenkins. “To help PD patients and their families cope with it, I have created Parkinson’s in the Park, an affiliated chapter of the National Parkinson Foundation. Some of the goals of the program are to educate people about this devastating disease and encourage them to participate in PD studies.”

Kay Mixson Jenkins is the Georgia state co-coordinator for the Parkinson’s Action Network, leads the Effingham County Parkinson’s support group and was selected as a Parkinson’s patient advocate for UCB, Inc.

Who Is Pee Dee? Explaining Parkinson’s Disease to a Child by Kay Mixson Jenkins is available on

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