April Awareness Month: Parkinson's Disease in Focus

April Awareness Month: Parkinson’s Disease in Focus

As April brings in a fresh bloom, it also marks a significant observance for a community that’s growing each year – the Parkinson’s community. Employers everywhere have a key role to play in supporting employees who may be navigating the complexities of Parkinson’s Disease. This April Awareness Month, we turn our focus to understanding this condition, offering insight into its symptoms, treatment, and the ongoing quest for a cure. 

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease 

Neurological Basis of Parkinson’s Disease 

Parkinson’s Disease, at its core, is a neurodegenerative disorder. The disease affects a person’s ability to control their movements. It happens because certain cells in the brain that help with movement start to die. These cells produce a chemical called dopamine, which is important for smooth and coordinated movements. When these cells die off, it can lead to symptoms like tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. 


This vital neurotransmitter is crucial for sending messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As the production of dopamine is reduced, symptoms of Parkinson’s begin to manifest. 

Lewy Bodies 

In Parkinson’s Disease, there are abnormal clumps of protein called Lewy bodies that form inside nerve cells. These clumps may play a role in causing nerve cell damage. 

Progression and Severity 

Progression of Parkinson’s Disease can vary greatly among individuals: 


Parkinson’s is often described in stages, ranging from stage I (mild symptoms that do not interfere with daily activities) to stage V (severe symptoms that can make it difficult to walk or stand unaided). 

Rate of Progression 

Some people experience a rapid progression of symptoms, while in others, the disease progresses slowly over many years. 

The Non-Motor Aspect 

While movement issues are the most noticed symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD), the condition is more than a motor disorder: 

Neurological Non-Motor Symptoms 

Other symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease that aren’t related to movement can include problems with smell, sleeping, mood, and thinking. These symptoms can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life. 

Autonomic Dysfunction 

Parkinson’s can impact the autonomic nervous system, which controls automatic bodily functions such as blood pressure regulation and digestion. 

Genetic and Environmental Factors 

Parkinson’s Disease’s exact cause remains unknown, but it’s believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. 


While most cases of Parkinson’s are sporadic, around 10-15% of individuals with PD have a first-degree relative with the disease. Certain genetic mutations have been linked to Parkinson’s, especially in younger individuals. 


Exposure to certain toxins, such as pesticides and heavy metals, has been associated with an increased risk of developing PD. 

Decoding the Signs and Symptoms 

Recognizing the Early Signs 

In its initial stages, Parkinson’s Disease may present with subtle symptoms that are easily overlooked. Signs such as a slight tremor in just one hand, a feeling of stiffness in a limb or part of the body that doesn’t go away, or a noticeable change in handwriting, often called micrographia, can be early indicators. Even a diminished sense of smell could be an early sign. Early symptom recognition allows for prompt consultation with healthcare providers, potentially leading to an earlier diagnosis and the start of a management plan. 

Motor Symptoms in Detail 

As Parkinson’s progresses, the motor symptoms become more prominent and pose greater challenges: 

  • Tremors: Typically beginning in the hands, these can occur as “pill-rolling” tremor of the fingers or a back-and-forth rubbing of the thumb and forefinger. They are most noticeable when the individual is at rest and diminish during movement. 
  • Rigidity: Muscle stiffness that occurs in any part of the body can restrict the range of motion and cause pain. Rigidity can result in a “cogwheel” phenomenon where there’s an intermittent resistance to movement in the limbs. 
  • Bradykinesia (Slowness of Movement): A defining feature of Parkinson’s, bradykinesia can make routine tasks difficult and time-consuming. It impacts the initiation of movement, causing hesitation before stepping, difficulty in getting up from a seated position, and a general reduction in spontaneous activity. 
  • Postural Instability: This leads to impaired balance and coordination, increasing the risk of falls. People with Parkinson’s may develop a stooped posture and have difficulty adjusting their body position. 
  • Other Common Motor Symptoms: Facial expression may reduce, sometimes described as a “masked” look, due to diminished unconscious movements. The voice might become softer, or speech may start to slur. Patients also experience a shuffling gait, characterized by small steps and a tendency to increase speed to keep balance. 

Non-Motor Symptoms Exploration 

Parkinson’s Disease also involves symptoms beyond motor control, which can significantly affect quality of life: 

  • Sleep Disturbances: This can range from trouble falling or staying asleep (insomnia), restless legs syndrome, to excessive sleepiness during the day. 
  • Sensory and Emotional Changes: This includes the loss of sense of smell (anosmia), pain and discomfort in different body parts, and the occurrence of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. 
  • Cognitive Impairment: While not all people will experience cognitive changes, some may encounter challenges with memory, executive function, problem-solving, and dementia in the later stages. 
  • Autonomic Dysfunction: These symptoms reflect the impacts on the automatic functions of the body and can include constipation, blood pressure fluctuations, and difficulty with temperature regulation. 
  • Other Symptoms: Additional issues like skin problems, fatigue, and speech changes (such as speaking softly or quickly) may manifest. 

Parkinson’s Disease varies significantly from person to person, both in the combination of symptoms presented and in their severity. An individualized approach to treatment and management is essential. 

Treatment and Management 

While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, a variety of treatments exist to manage its symptoms.  

Medication Management 

Medications form the cornerstone of Parkinson’s treatment with the primary aim to manage the troublesome symptoms, especially those related to motor function: 

  • Levodopa: This is the most commonly prescribed medication for Parkinson’s, which the brain converts into dopamine. 
  • Dopamine Agonists: These drugs mimic dopamine effects in the brain and can be used alone or with levodopa. 
  • MAO-B Inhibitors: These help prevent the breakdown of brain dopamine by inhibiting the enzyme monoamine oxidase B. 
  • COMT Inhibitors: These drugs extend the effect of levodopa by blocking an enzyme that breaks down dopamine. 
  • Anticholinergics: These can help control the tremor associated with Parkinson’s. 
  • Amantadine: This may provide short-term relief of mild, early-stage Parkinson’s symptoms or help with involuntary movements (dyskinesia) associated with levodopa. 

It’s important to note that while these medications can be very effective in controlling the symptoms of Parkinson’s, they do not stop the disease from progressing. Also, as the disease progresses or as the duration of medication use extends, some patients may experience fluctuations in their response to treatment or develop dyskinesias. 

Physical Therapy and Exercise 

A well-rounded physical therapy program is crucial to maintain and improve mobility, flexibility, balance, and strength: 

  • Physical Therapy: Tailored exercises can improve gait and balance, while occupational therapy can assist with daily activities. 
  • Exercise: Engaging in regular aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching is highly beneficial and is sometimes as important as medication for managing symptoms. 
  • Tai Chi and Yoga: These can improve flexibility and balance. 
  • Speech Therapy: As Parkinson’s can affect speech, speech therapy may be beneficial. 

Surgical and Advanced Therapies 

In advanced Parkinson’s Disease or cases where medication effectiveness diminishes, surgical interventions might be considered: 

  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): Electrodes are implanted in specific areas of the brain and connected to a generator implanted in the chest. The generator sends out electrical pulses to the brain, which can reduce Parkinson’s symptoms. 
  • Focused Ultrasound: This is a noninvasive therapeutic technique for treating motor symptoms, particularly tremor. 

Lifestyle and Home Remedies 

Addressing daily living, mental health, and overall well-being can greatly improve an individual’s quality of life: 

  • Healthy Diet: A balanced diet can help manage Parkinson’s symptoms and improve overall health. 
  • Support Groups: Sharing experiences with others facing similar challenges can provide emotional support. 
  • Stress Management: Stress can worsen symptoms, so relaxation techniques such as meditation can be helpful.  

Epidemiology: Age, Gender, and Statistics 

Parkinson’s primarily affects those over the age of 60, although diagnosis at a younger age, known as Young-Onset Parkinson’s Disease, does occur. While both men and women can develop Parkinson’s, studies have shown that the condition is more prevalent in men. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, the disease affects over 10 million people worldwide, with nearly one million Americans living with Parkinson’s today. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to 1.2 million in the United States alone, presenting a clear need for increased awareness and resources. 

Searching for a Cure 

Surmounting the challenges that Parkinson’s Disease presents requires a commitment to research and innovation. Scientists and researchers dedicated to finding a cure continually investigate new treatments, medications, and potential surgical advancements that promise to prevent, halt, or reverse the progression of the disease. The commitment of funding to research is imperative for these breakthroughs to occur, offering hope to those affected. 


As we observe Parkinson’s Awareness Month this April, it’s crucial for self-funded employers to understand the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. Not only does supporting employees with Parkinson’s foster a compassionate workspace, but it also exemplifies a commitment to employee health and well-being.   

By prioritizing awareness and early symptom detection, businesses can play a pivotal role in supporting employees affected by Parkinson’s Disease. Workplace adjustments, flexibility, and access to comprehensive healthcare options can create an environment where individuals with Parkinson’s can continue to lead productive and fulfilling lives. Together, we can be part of the journey toward a world without Parkinson’s Disease. 

More To Explore

Stay Informed with MaxCare

Subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates, industry news, and exclusive content. Stay ahead with expert insights, special offers, and helpful resources.