NAPLES, Fla. — April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, and Fox 4 is going in-depth to explain why Parkinson's Disease is so hard to diagnose.
Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to a loss of dopamine in the brain. It impacts a person's movement, speech, and ability to think.
Larry Sternberg said he can remember his heart shattering in a million pieces when his wife Karin was diagnosed with Parkinson's 15 years ago.
"I thought this was the end of the world," he said.
He said when Karin first told him about her issues with balance, muscle rigidity, and inability to focus, he denied there was anything wrong; mostly because her symptoms were subtle, and could have easily been blamed on getting older.
Symptoms of Parkinson's that are also signs of aging include:
- Impaired balance or coordination
- Falling more often
- Muscle stiffness
- Slowness of movement
- Urinary problems
- Not sleeping well
- Handwriting getting smaller in size
"We've all been through trying times the last couple of years. Who doesn't have a bout of, 'Oh my gosh, I'm thinking twice about whatever's going on. Things could be better,'” Mary Schoeffel, the Executive Director of the Parkinson's Association of Southwest Florida, said.
She said another reason it takes so long to diagnose Parkinson's Disease is because a lot of the symptoms are similar to other diseases.
"They go to their doctor, their doctors are not that versed in the symptoms of Parkinson's. I can't even tell you the priority order because each and every person with Parkinson's exhibits their symptoms differently," Schoeffel said. “You can lose a sense of smell with COVID. It also is a symptom of Parkinson’s."
The Parkinson's Association of Southwest Florida is sponsored by BrightStar Care in Fort Myers and Naples. BrightStar Care is an in-home care agency and a Your Healthy Family partner.