reviewed 9/18/2018

Parkinson’s disease: True or false?

No one knows the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder that worsens over time. There is no cure, but medication and surgery can help manage its symptoms. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year. How much do you know about this disease?

True or false: A special diet can treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

False. Diet alone won’t treat it. But eating certain foods can ease symptoms. For example, drinking plenty of fluids daily can help you avoid constipation. So can eating fiber-rich foods like brown rice, whole grains, fruit and beans.

True or false: Exercise can lead to falls, so people with Parkinson’s should avoid physical activity.

False. Physical activity can help you maintain and improve balance, flexibility and mobility. Exercise also might improve emotional well-being. Of course, you want to stay safe. So talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

True or false: The symptoms of Parkinson’s are the same for everyone with the disease.

False. While tremors, slow movement, stiffness and impaired balance are the primary symptoms, not everyone with Parkinson’s has all four—or experiences them in the same way. And other non-motor symptoms often accompany the disease. Work closely with your doctor to manage your particular symptoms—and make sure loved ones and caregivers understand the treatment plan too.

True or false: One effect of Parkinson’s, called freezing, happens when you want to walk forward but your body doesn’t move right away.

True. Freezing often occurs when you want to walk through a doorway or are trying to turn around. Some tips for getting out of a freezing episode include marching in place, counting out loud or trying to move in a different direction.

True or false: A decreased sense of smell can be an early sign of Parkinson’s.

True. It’s called hyposmia, and it can occur years before any of the motor signs associated with the disease. Most people with hyposmia won’t go on to develop Parkinson’s, but many people with Parkinson’s will have hyposmia.

You can learn more about Parkinson’s in the Parkinson’s Disease health topic center.

Visit the topic center

Sources: Michael J. Fox Foundation; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

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