Every year, Parkinson Society British Columbia (PSBC) dedicates the month of April to raising awareness of the unique experiences of people with Parkinson's, and the needs of our community. April Awareness Month is an opportunity to engage the public in expanding their understanding of Parkinson's, and the profound effects it has on the lives of over 13,000 British Columbians living with the disease.
This April, we want to spread the message that Parkinson's is more than a tremor. The disease can affect all aspects of one's life, and there is no cure.
Our 2021 campaign highlights:
- Personal journeys shared by people with Parkinson's, their families, and carepartners.
- The importance of living well with Parkinson's, through self-management, self-reliance, and self-advocacy.
- Community ties and peer support bringing together the Parkinson's community across British Columbia.
In recognition of Parkinson's Awareness Month, and World Parkinson’s Day on April 11, we are encouraging individuals affected by the disease to share their experiences through our #MoreThanATremor campaign.
While most people have heard of Parkinson's disease, the breadth of symptoms experienced, and ripple effect the disease has on friends, family, and the healthcare system, are lesser understood. With approximately 13,000 people affected by the condition, Parkinson's is the second most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer's - yet it receives considerably less attention.
Our Campaign Plans
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, PSBC's Parkinson's Awareness Month campaign will be focused online. Throughout April, we will be posting to our social media channels every weekday, so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Each week, we will be sharing a "Letter to My Younger Self" submitted by a community member, a throwback to past awareness projects, awareness messages from people with Parkinson's, and much more! Also, stay tuned for special video interviews to be released throughout the month.
Show your support by learning about Parkinson's disease!
Parkinson's is widely misunderstood and stigmatized. The first step to advocating for the Parkinson's community is understanding their condition, needs, and the challenges they face.
Parkinson's disease is caused by a degeneration of the cells which produce dopamine in the substantia nigra area of the brain. It is not known why the cells are damaged or destroyed although there are many theories. It is possible that genetics and the environment work together to cause Parkinson's. Much more research is needed to completely understand how, why and when this disorder occurs. The symptoms of Parkinson's appear when over half of the dopamine-producing cells are lost.
Dopamine is a brain neurotransmitter which sends signals from one nerve cell to another. It affects the parts of the brain which control smooth, voluntary movements such as walking, writing, throwing a ball or buttoning a shirt.
Dopamine is also essential for involuntary movements including control of: blood pressure and bowel function.
Loss of dopamine can also affect mood and thinking.
There are no specific brain scans or laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis of Parkinson's. Neurologists diagnose it with a careful evaluation of a person's medical history and a physical examination. Tests may be done to rule out other conditions which may resemble Parkinson's.
At the present time there is no known cure, however many people live full, productive lives. With the treatment that is now available, life expectancy for someone with Parkinson's is fairly normal. Each year, more and improved treatments are being introduced.
There are approximately 100,000 people with Parkinson's in Canada, approximately 13,000 in British Columbia. Up to 20% of individuals with Parkinson's develop symptoms before the age of 60. This is known as Young Onset Parkinson's. Parkinson's is usually diagnosed between the ages of 55 and 65, with 60 being the average age of diagnosis. Parkinson's affects 1% of adults over the age of 65 and is slightly more common in men.
A genetic cause of Parkinson's appears in only a very small number of cases, approximately 5% – 10%. Where it may appear to run in families, researchers are looking at environmental factors shared by the family or community in addition to examining potential genetic links. The vast majority of cases of Parkinson's disease are from unknown causes.
Most common motor symptoms are:
- Resting tremor – repetitive shaking movements occurring in the arms and/or legs at rest. (Tremors are the first symptom to appear in about 70% of people with Parkinson's.)
- Rigidity – increased stiffness in muscles and joints.
- Bradykinesia – slowness of movement, including all actions such as walking and writing.
- Lack of coordination – postural impairment or loss of balance.
- Hypomimia – reduced facial expression, making a person appear uninterested or sad when they are not.
- Hypophonia – speaking in a very soft voice. This may involve deterioration in the rhythm and quality of the voice.
- Micrographia – small, cramped handwriting.
- Cognitive and mood changes, including:
- Forgetfulness and confusion
- loss of impulse control
- Dementia, hallucinations
- Urinary problems
Early symptoms generally occur gradually, and progress more rapidly in some people than others. The tremor may begin to interfere with daily activities, and other symptoms may appear. Parkinson is progressive, meaning the symptoms may worsen over time, and the rate of this progression is different for each person. There is no way of knowing how slowly or quickly Parkinson's may progress. Parkinson's is, however, described as the most slowly progressing neurological disorder.
Mental illness is a term used to describe a disruption in the balance between mind, body and spirit and a change in one's mental or emotional well-being. Psychological symptoms of Parkinson's are considered to be as important as the physical symptoms.
Some people feel there is a stigma associated with mental health issues and some may still feel that psychological symptoms are an example of personal weakness. Do not allow these preconceptions to stop you from talking to your healthcare professionals and getting the help you need!
Note to caregivers:
Some caregivers report that the psychological changes that can accompany Parkinson's are more difficult to deal with than the physical changes. It is therefore even more important for caregivers to look after themselves.
Adapted from Mind, Mood and Memory, published by the National Parkinson Foundation.
There are many causes of tremors and other symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease and it may take time to make an accurate diagnosis. A neurologist who specializes in movement disorders is the best person to make or confirm a diagnosis. The following information describes other disorders that may be confused with Parkinson's.
Many of the conditions described in this section are extremely rare.
Essential Tremor (ET)
Sources: International Essential Tremor Foundation, The Mayo Clinic
Essential Tremor is a chronic neurological condition characterized by involuntary, rhythmic tremor of a body part. The most frequently affected areas of the body are the hands, arms and head, followed by the voice, tongue, legs, or trunk.
ET is considered a slowly progressive disorder although for some people it may be relatively non-progressive and the tremor may be mild throughout life. Essential tremor isn't caused by other conditions and it is a common movement disorder.
Medication is a common treatment and many people with ET benefit from drug therapy, however not everyone is a candidate for the medications used to treat ET.
Surgery may be suggested to treat ET but individuals are carefully selected as possible candidates for surgery and surgical intervention is usually reserved for patients with severe, disabling tremor.
Finally, lifestyle changes as well as physical and occupational therapy may help individuals better perform tasks that are affected by ET.
Some common medications can cause Parkinson-like symptoms. Medications frequently associated with the development of Parkinsonism (the name given to a group of disorders with similar features including four primary symptoms: tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement and postural instability) include antipsychotics, metaclopramide, reserpine, tetrabenazine and some blood pressure medications such as cinnarizine and flunarizine. Fortunately, the symptoms usually abate within weeks to months after discontinuing the problem medication.
This is one reason why it is very important to inform the medical staff in a hospital or clinic that you have Parkinson's and what medications you are taking. A Medication Card, which may be obtained from Parkinson Society British Columbia, is a very useful tool for keeping track of your medications. The card contains a clear message regarding medications that must not be taken by a person with Parkinson's.
Multiple small strokes can cause Parkinson's-like symptoms. People with this disorder are more likely to have gait difficulty rather than tremors and are more likely to have symptoms that are worse in the lower limbs rather than the upper limbs. Some will also report the abrupt onset of symptoms or give a history of a step form of symptom development (symptoms get worse, then plateau for a period, then get worse again). Treatment is the same as for Parkinson's disease, but the results are often not as positive.
Parkinson's Plus Syndromes
Parkinson-plus syndromes are a group of neurological conditions that are similar to Parkinson's disease but have unique characteristics. These syndromes can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other conditions. Read more about these syndromes here.
How can I help promote Parkinson's awareness?
Whether you are a person with Parkinson's disease, carepartner, friend, or family member, we invite you tell your story, and help spread the word that Parkinson's is #MoreThanATremor! See below for information on how you can help make a difference this April.
This Awareness Month, we invite you to share your journey by submitting a letter written to your younger self.
Think of when you were first diagnosed, and all of the questions, worries, and emotions you had at the time. What advice would you give your younger self? What do you know now that you wish you had known then? Use the form below to submit your responses, or email your letter to Jovana Vranic, Marketing & Communications Senior Coordinator, at email@example.com.
These letters may be shared throughout the month of April in our awareness campagin on social media, on our website, and in newsletters to our community. If you would like your story to remain anonymous if published, please indicate this in the form below. Please be sure to include your contact information in your submission if you would like to be notified if your story is published. Your contact information will remain confidential, and will not be shared online.
We welcome letters from anyone affected by Parkinson's, whether you were recently diagnosed, or living with the disease for decades. Carepartners and family members are also encouraged to share their stories. Thank you for your interest!
Submit Your Letter
Social media is a powerful way to communicate. This year, we are encouraging you to share your Parkinson's disease (PD) story using the hashtag #MoreThanATremor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Sharable Images: Coming soon!
Be sure to like Parkinson Society British Columbia's page on Facebook. Share your PD story on our wall or on your personal profile using the #MoreThanATremor hashtag. Select posts might be re-shared on the PSBC Facebook page*.
Sample Facebook Posts:
- Approximately 13,000 British Columbians have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD). While most people have heard of PD, the breadth of symptoms experienced and the ripple effect the condition has on family, friends and the healthcare system is lesser known. This April, I am supporting the Parkinson's community in BC by participating in #MoreThanATremor.
- April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, and I'm taking part in the #MoreThanATremor campaign to help raise awareness about Parkinson's disease, the second most common neurodenerative disorder after Alzheimer's.
Tweet your thoughts on PD or photos, and use the #MoreThanATremor hashtag. As long as your tweets are public, others will be able to find you via the hashtag and engage*.
Find us on Twitter.
- While you might have heard of Parkinson's, did you know that symptoms vary significantly from person to person? #MoreThanATremor
- April is #ParkinsonsAwarenessMonth. Although Parkinson's is slightly more prevalent in men than women, it impacts people regardless of age and ethnicity. #MoreThanATremor
- Parkinsons disease impacts 13,000 British Columbians, as well as friends, family members, and the healthcare system. #MoreThanATremor
Tell your #MoreThanATremor story visually on this photo based platform!*
Find us on Instagram. Sharable images coming soon!
*Parkinson Society British Columbia understands that everyone has a right to privacy on social media. Most social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, offer varying levels of privacy. Please don't feel pressure to change your settings - there are other ways to support this campaign! However, please be aware that hashtags can only be viewed by those who can see your accounts.
Since April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, news coverage about the disease and the people affected is considered topical. In the past, many people with Parkinson's have been successful in helping to earn media coverage in their communities. This year, PSBC invites you to approach your own local media!
In past years, residents have also provided interviews, written letters to the editor or offered their own stories which have been shared with various types of media. Here are some examples:
We invite local businesses and organizations to show their support for our campaign and lend their platform to become a community partner this April Awareness Month! Community partners will be recognized in our newsletters, on our website, and on social media. For more information on how your organization can get involved, read on below.
In recognition of World Parkinson’s Day this April 11, Parkinson Society British Columbia is partnering with landmarks and facilities across the province to light up for Parkinson’s awareness. We invite all interested organizations and businesses to show their support for over 13,000 British Columbians living with Parkinson’s, and help spread the message that no one is alone in their journey with this disease.
Please consider lighting up your facility or landmark in teal and magenta this April 11 to signify the colours of our community as represented by Parkinson Society BC.
Give the gift of support by sponsoring or donating an advertising opportunity on World Parkinson's Day, April 11. Parkinson Society British Columbia relies on the generosity of our donors to fund our public awareness and advocacy efforts. By donating an advertising space, you can help us raise support and awareness for the Parkinson's community.
Help us spread the word by sharing our posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Throughout the month of April, we will be releasing stories, photos, and videos as part of our public awareness campaign. Show your support by using our hashtag, #MoreThanATremor! Stay tuned to see our posts.
If you have questions or comments about #MoreThanATremor or any of PSBC's awareness activities, please contact: