"Sometimes a simple definition can make all the difference."
Being diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease is overwhelming. New patients tend to have a million thoughts racing through their minds after hearing the news, and not uncommonly do they experience feelings of helplessness or fear.
However, one thing that helps us feel more in control again is being able to define and label the unknowns, which makes them less frightening than we initially thought.
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with YOPD, we hope that this glossary of common terms helps you to both understand the condition better and reduce any anxiety you might be feeling.
Akinesia - Inability to move or issues with initiating and/or maintaining a physical body motion.
Ataxia - A movement disorder characterized by decreased muscle coordination and loss of balance during voluntary movements.
Bradykinesia - The slowing down and loss of spontaneous, voluntary movement.
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) - A surgical procedure in which a device similar to a heart pacemaker is implanted in the brain and used to deliver electrical stimulation to areas that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremors and other PD symptoms. This procedure is currently used for patients whose symptoms are not satisfactorily controlled by medications.
Disequilibrium - Issues with balance or unsteadiness; a common experience in those with YOPD.
Dopamine - A neurotransmitter that helps control movement, walking, and balance. The primary cause of PD patients’ motor symptoms is lack of dopamine.
Dopamine Agonist- A type of drug that binds to dopamine receptors and mimics their role in the brain to produce dopamine-like effects.
Dysarthria - Slurred or impaired speech; a common characteristic of Parkinson's disease.
Dyskinesia - Frequent uncontrollable and involuntary movements that are a common side effect of levodopa treatment. These movements are often characterized by jerky and lurching motions.
Dysphagia - Difficulty swallowing. Can be painful for those experiencing it.
Dystonia - A movement disorder characterized by abnormal posture and sustained hand or foot movement, and can also be accompanied by twisting and rigidity. Dystonia is often confused with Parkinson’s disease.
Facial masking - When the face is immobile with reduced blinking.
Familial Parkinson's Disease - A form of Parkinson’s disease (that may account for less than 5% of worldwide cases) in which it is believed the condition may run in families and be passed on through genetics.
Festination - A spontaneous shuffling or quickening of steps after starting to walk.
Freezing - Sudden inability to move that often happens when beginning to walk or cross a boundary such as walking through a doorway or exiting a car.
Hypokinesia - A term used to describe the slow or diminished movement associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Levodopa - Also called L-dopa, the most common drug used to treat Parkinson's symptoms that works by restoring the dopamine responsible for smooth, coordinated movement and other functions.
Lewy bodies - Irregular clumps of protein that indicate the deaths of dopamine-producing cells. The presence of Lewy bodies is used to confirm a Parkinson’s diagnosis during autopsy.
Micrographia - Small, cramped handwriting. A common symptom among Parkinson’s patients.
Neurodegeneration - The slow, progressive death of certain brain systems observed in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) diseases.
Olfactory dysfunction - Impaired ability to smell. Can be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease.
On-Off phenomenon - The cyclical pattern in which patients on Parkinson’s medications can function adequately at times, but then become too stiff or immobile to function at others.
Parkin - A gene whose mutations have been associated with a familial form of Parkinson’s disease.
Pill-rolling - A slow tremor observed in Parkinson’s patients in which they alternate moving their thumb and forefinger, appearing as if they’re rolling a small object between them.
Resting tremor - An involuntary movement that affects a limb at rest and will stop for the duration of a voluntary movement. This is one of the most common clinical signs of Parkinson’s disease.
Rigidity - An unusual amount of stiffness in a limb or other part of the body. Rigidity is often one of the most apparent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease when patients undergo examination.
Sinemet - The brand name for levodopa, one of the most commonly prescribed medications used for treating Parkinson’s.
While labeling and defining terms like these can help a little, joining a supportive community can help a lot. YOPN members have access to a wide range of resources, activities, and opportunities that allow them to continue living well despite the diagnosis. Visit https://yopnetwork.org/Join to learn more or sign up.
Source: Michael J. Fox Foundation. Glossary of Terms. https://www.michaeljfox.org/glossary-terms (accessed September 12, 2022).