Debunking 4 common misconceptions about living with Parkinson's disease
Misconception No. 1 - You cannot exercise with Parkinson's disease.
We all know that we should exercise every day, including people with Parkinson's disease. In fact, it is particularly important for people with Parkinson's.
"We really believe that exercise, particularly cardiovascular exercise, is really crucial," Wiggins said. "It will make people feel better, it will slow down their progression."
Being sedentary, Wiggins explained, has a cumulative effect. Sitting a lot leads to sitting even more. This causes a decrease in mobility and often a subsequent feeling of loss of independence. As the cycle continues, our physical condition deteriorates. Wiggins encourages people with Parkinson's disease to 'push themselves to safety', which means attending physical therapy and sticking to a regular exercise programme, to maintain their mobility and independence for much longer.
Misconception No. 2 - The most popular drug for Parkinson's disease stops working over time.
Many patients with Parkinson's disease are prescribed carbidopa-levodopa (pronounced kar-buh-dow-puh leh-vuh-dow-puh), which is a combination of drugs that acts as a substitute for dopamine - the communication chemical - in the brain.
A common misconception is that the drug stops working over time and this can cause hesitation in patients who are deciding whether to start taking it. Wiggins explained that while a patient may require higher doses of carbidopa-levodopa over time, it is not because the drug loses efficacy.
Misconception No. 3 - Treating Parkinson's disease only means controlling tremors.
Dr. Wiggins encourages his patients with Parkinson's disease to exercise daily.
A tremor is a common and visible symptom of Parkinson's disease. But it is not the only symptom, and the treatment of Parkinson's disease goes beyond controlling tremors.
"A lot of my time and care is dedicated to addressing tremor, but also to trying to address a patient's mobility, their ability to exercise, their mood and their quality of life," Wiggins said. "Sometimes I find that the treatment of Parkinson's disease does not revolve around eliminating a patient's tremor. The things we should really focus on are people's ability to exercise, to move around, to spend time with loved ones, those kinds of things. Tremor is not the end all be all for the treatment of Parkinson's disease'.
Misconception No. 4 - There is no hope after a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.
Today, it is possible to achieve a high quality of life with Parkinson's disease and the future promises further technological and medical advances that will continue to improve the outcomes of people with this diagnosis.
"There is actually a lot of hope," Wiggins said. "I am very optimistic and hopeful that there will be new drugs that will not only help treat the symptoms, but hopefully in the near future will help in what is called a disease-modifying way."