The incidences of Parkinson’s increases with age, but an estimated 4% of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50. Men are slightly more likely to have Parkinson’s disease than women. The cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options to manage the symptoms.
There is no standard test to conclusively show if a person has Parkinson’s disease. Specific symptoms vary from one person to another, but the primary signs of Parkinson’s disease include:
- tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
- bradykinesia or slowness of movement
- rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
- postural instability or impaired balance and coordination
Other common symptoms may include pain; dementia or confusion; fatigue; sleep disturbances; depression; constipation; cognitive changes; fear or anxiety; and urinary problems. All of these symptoms can vary from person to person.
The Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) has created a comprehensive form for your use, to document your symptoms. We support their recommendation that you take a copy with you to each of your medical appointments, filled in, both to help you discuss your symptoms with your doctor and to be placed in your medical chart.
During your doctor’s visit, ask your doctor to add his or her observations in the “Physician Comment/Observation” field. Sign and date the form and ask that your doctor do the same. Ask your doctor to include this form in your medical record.
The form can be found at: http://www.parkinsonsaction.org/PDForm
If you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you may initially be able to continue working. If a time comes when your symptoms interfere with your ability to do any work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If a disability decision cannot be made on medical factors alone, your situation will be evaluated based on a variety of physical and/or mental limitations you may have that prevent you from working. These include:
- How well you can perform physical tasks such as walking, standing, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, reaching, and handling objects; or
- How well you can perform mental tasks such as understanding, carrying out, and remembering instructions; responding appropriately to supervision and co-workers; and dealing with work pressures.
Improving Your Chances for Obtaining Disability Benefits
Because a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is based on the presence of symptoms, it is especially important for you to:
- Keep a detailed medical history, including a calendar of notes about how you feel each day.
- Record any usual activities you could not do on any given day.
- Keep a detailed history of your current and past medications.
- See a doctor regularly and take the medication that he/she gives you so that your doctor can support your application for benefits.
- If possible, see a specialist, such as a neurologist, for a confirming diagnosis.
- As recommended above, bring your symptoms form to your doctor appointments to track the course of your symptoms and to keep a record of any evidence of tremor, slowness of movement, stiffness of limbs and trunk, impaired balance, confusion, fatigue, sleep disturbance, depression, or cognitive changes.
- Keep records of how your illness affected you on the job.