It’s time we knew more about what is happening with Parkinson’s Disease today. I’ve read a few news stories recently that should have us all concerned.
The first story emanated from New Brunswick, Canada, where a 3 year old boy has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. That is not a misprint – a 3 year old with Parkinson’s! Doctors, family and everyone else is justifiably puzzled by this development.
What in the world is going on? I was myself shocked when I was diagnosed at the relatively young age of 42. Since then, it seems that I read more and more of individuals being diagnosed at younger and younger ages. But 3 year’s old seems perverse.
The second story comes out of the University of Rochester where researchers, studying the growing prevalence of Parkinson’s, suggest that PD may be the next pandemic in our society. “Pandemics are usually equated with infectious diseases like Zika, influenza, and HIV,” says Ray Dorsey, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “But neurological disorders are now the leading cause of disability in the world and the fastest growing is Parkinson’s disease.”
The researchers point out that “between 1990 and 2015, the prevalence of Parkinson’s more than doubled and it is estimated that 6.9 million people across the globe have the disease. By 2040, that number of people with Parkinson’s will grow to 14.2 million as the population ages—a rate of growth that will outpace that of Alzheimer’s.”
The article concludes by calling on the Parkinson’s community to dramatically step up efforts to advocate for more attention to PD including the following measures:
- Support a better understanding of the environmental, genetic, and behavioral causes and risk factors for Parkinson’s to help prevent its onset.
- Increase access to care—an estimated 40 percent of people with the disease in both the US and Europe don’t see a neurologist and the number is far greater in developing nations.
- Advocate for increases in research funding for the disease.
- Lower cost of treatments—many patients in low-income countries don’t have access to drugs that are both lifesaving and improve quality of life.
While it’s hard to find fault with these recommendations in the ‘call to action’, I think it is difficult to expect people with PD to take the lead on this score. Many of us – particularly those who have had the disease for some time – are locked in a daily struggle with it. We also tackle the side-effects of existing treatments and face new challenges as the disease advances that tax our resources even more. Sure, we can lend our voices (as weakened by the disease as they may be), but we need to have a broader chorus of concern for what is going on with PD. The increase in the number of people with PD, as well as the broader swath of the population that is affected, are surely cause for concern.