Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects multiple regions of the brain and produces the most well-known symptoms of tremor, slowness, stiffness and problems with walking and balance. Picture: AP
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects multiple regions of the brain and produces the most well-known symptoms of tremor, slowness, stiffness and problems with walking and balance. Picture: AP

World Brain Day: Spotlight on Parkinson’s Disease

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published Jul 22, 2020

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This year, World Brain Day is dedicated to raising awareness of Parkinson’s Disease.

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects multiple regions of the brain and produces the most well-known symptoms of tremor, slowness, stiffness and problems with walking and balance.

Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, many highly effective treatment options exist.

According to Dr Patty Francis, Neurology Association of South Africa president, while the distinctive symptom of Parkinson’s Disease is shaking and slowness of movement, PD also affects sleep and cognitive ability; causes pain and gastrointestinal issues, provokes anxiety and depression, reducing motivation and quality of life.

Early diagnosis and access to effective treatment are vital in order to help patients find relief and enhance their quality of life.

“Parkinson’s Disease affects more than 7 million people around the globe – that’s nearly equivalent to the entire population of New York City,” explained Professor Tissa Wijerante, the World Brain Day chair. “Our goal is to raise awareness for Parkinson’s Disease and its impact on society in an effort to improve access to quality neurological care and life-changing treatments.”

South Africa’s population is estimated at 59 308 690 people at mid-year 2020 according to UN data. Between 16 and 17% of these have private medical insurance, while the rest are dependent on state facilities for healthcare. South Africa has a crude estimate of one neurology service provider per 400 000 population in South Africa.

“More than one in four people living with Parkinson’s Disease were initially misdiagnosed,” said Professor Wolfgang Grisold, the World Federation of Neurology’s Secretary-General. “Many symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are poorly recognised and undertreated, which is detrimental for those living with the disease. There is a profound need for improved standards of care across the globe.”

Treatments range from medication to highly selective surgical procedures (deep brain stimulation) supported by physical therapy, exercise programs, social and psychological support.

Covid-19 is a dramatic reminder that healthcare is a global issue. Let us remember that Parkinson’s Disease is also a daily challenge faced by all ages and people, but mainly by the elderly.

“Brain health has never been more vital or relevant,” said WFN president, Prof. William Carroll. “When the world unites against this crippling movement disorder on World Brain Day, we will demonstrate the power of advocacy and awareness.

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