Patient Experiences

Everything You Need to Know About the Weather and Parkinson’s Disease

As the seasons change, you may notice your Parkinson’s disease symptoms getting worse. You may be more sensitive to temperature, experience more fatigue, and movement may become slower. Though it’s not often talked about, extreme changes in weather can exacerbate symptoms.  Many patients with Parkinson’s disease report greater stiffness and pain during the winter months, along with more freezing and slowness. Others report that shivering from the cold makes their tremors worse. Falls related to Parkinson’s also often occur more often during freezing episodes.  Some patients may also experience worsened symptoms during the summer months. Heat and humidity can make it hard for the body to function properly. Some patients report feeling “drained” or exhausted during the summer.   The four main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, and postural instability. But there are non-motor symptoms as well, such as fatigue, excessive daytime sleepiness, and cognitive changes.   How Does Weather Affect Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms?  Weather changes are difficult for many people, but they can be even more challenging for people with Parkinson’s. Since Parkinson’s affects the nervous system, which controls body temperature, patients can be more sensitive to heat and cold. In the winter, Parkinson’s patients may have a harder time feeling and staying warm. In the summer, extreme heat can make it difficult for the muscles to work properly.   Research has …

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Your Illness Does Not Make You a Burden

One day, you’re full of energy, doing chores around the house, running errands, and spending time with loved ones. The next, you’re laying down with your feet up, heating pad across your abdomen, asking your friend or family member to bring you an easily digestible, diary and gluten-free meal and if they would switch the laundry for you.  Living with a chronic illness comes with a lot of ups and downs. Some days you may have the energy to do it all, other days you may need to rely on loved ones to lend you a hand. Asking for help from others is hard. You may find yourself saying things like “could I trouble you for…”, do you mind…”, “I hate to bother you, but…”. Needing help with simple tasks, like making breakfast or taking a shower, can be demoralizing and humiliating.  When you have a condition that limits your ability to do daily activities, you will need help. And that does not make you a burden.    You Are Not a Burden There are many ways a person with a chronic illness will need help. This can range from a relaxing night in with good company, going to doctor’s …

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9 Gift Ideas for Someone Living with Chronic Illness

Now that the holidays are here, many of us have started looking for the perfect gift to give to our loved ones. Finding the right gift can be hard. But when you are trying to buy a gift for someone with a chronic illness, it may be even harder.  Chronic illnesses are persistent or long-lasting health conditions that likely don’t have a cure. Some conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, can be life-threatening, whereas others, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, linger over time and require intensive management. Having a chronic illness means making many lifestyle adjustments to accommodate the demands of the condition.  Symptoms like fatigue, pain, and mood swings often accompany chronic illness. As a result, people with long-term illnesses tend to stay in bed longer, have lower energy levels, and find it difficult to attend social events frequently. While the gift of a cure for chronic conditions doesn’t exist, there are some gifts that can make their condition more manageable and show your loved ones you care.  Gifts for Someone with Chronic Illness Here are a few gift ideas to get you started: Heating pad Heat therapy is an important part of pain management. It works by improving …

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What is Seasonal Depression?

As the weather gets colder and days become shorter, you may notice you have less energy, feel a little less optimistic and spend more time alone. While this may not be a cause for concern, about 5% of the U.S population experience seasonal depression during the fall and winter months.   Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a subtype of depression that begins and ends around the same time every year. This recurrent pattern generally begins in the fall or early winter months and ends around springtime, lasting about four to five months per year. This is known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression. For people in the United States, the most difficult months tend to be January and February.  Many people get a mild version of SAD known as the “winter blues.” As much as 20% of the population may get the winter blues, which is usually linked to something specific, such as holiday stress or grief over missing loved ones. The winter blues isn’t a medical diagnosis and usually goes away on its own after a few weeks or months.  Some people might have depressive episodes during the spring and summer. This is known as summer-pattern SAD or summer depression, which affects about 10% of the population.   What causes seasonal depression?  Although the exact cause of SAD is unknown, it has been linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and …

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6 Possible Causes of Multiple Sclerosis

If you’re living with multiple sclerosis, you probably have a lot of questions about your diagnosis. You might be wondering how you developed the disease and what your outlook is. While the course of the disease will vary from person to person, an exact cause has yet to be identified. Scientists have found that a combination of factors often causes multiple sclerosis.  What happens when you have MS?  Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells rather than protecting them. It is unclear why the immune system does this or what prevents it from being able to identify healthy cells versus invaders. Because the autoimmune response is unknown, there aren’t any absolute cures for autoimmune disorders.   When it comes to MS, the immune system attacks healthy cells in the myelin, the protective sheath that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve signals from the brain to other parts of the body are interrupted. This damage can cause symptoms such as muscle spasms, stiffness, and weakness, or lack of coordination.  What are some of the causes of MS?  There are several factors that researchers believe can cause multiple sclerosis. Genetics  Genetics is one possible cause of multiple sclerosis. Although MS is not an …

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Medication-Free Ways To Feel Better With Parkinson’s Disease

Getting a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can be overwhelming. This neurodegenerative disorder affects movement and doesn’t have a cure, but with the right medications and complementary or alternative therapies, symptoms can be managed.  Incorporating medication-free ways into Parkinson’s treatment can help people living with the condition improve their health and well-being, along with preserving physical function and enhancing quality of life.  Music therapy   A 2015 study published in Frontiers in Neurology found that playing and listening music can be beneficial for managing the movement and emotional aspects of Parkinson’s disease. Rhythm enhances connections between the motor and auditory systems, and areas that involve rhythm perception are closely related to those that regulate movement. A regular rhythmic pulse stimulates activity in the putamen, a part of the brain that is involved in learning and motor control. Rhythm also influences the kinetic system and facilitates movement synchronization, coordination, and regularization.  Another study that is being conducted by the University of Colorado School of Medicine is examining the effects of therapeutic instrumental music performance (TIMP) on Parkinson’s patients. TIMP uses specific movement and rhythm combinations to “reprogram” certain brain frequencies.   According to one of the study conductors, Parkinson’s most likely affects beta frequencies, which are generated when the brain is actively engaged in mental activities. The concept behind the study is to use external rhythms to target beta frequencies and restore them …

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9 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Fight Chronic Illness

If you’re living with a chronic illness, there’s a good chance your doctor has suggested altering your diet to help reduce or eliminate inflammation in the body. Increasing evidence suggests that there is a link between inflammation and chronic conditions like cancer, autoimmune disease, lung and heart disease, gut disorders, asthma, and diabetes.  When the body senses invaders like viruses, bacteria or toxins, or suffers from an injury, the immune system is activated. Upon activation, the body releases inflammatory cells and cytokines that begin the inflammatory response to trap the invaders or heal the injury. As a result, you may experience pain, swelling, or redness, and oftentimes, inflammation goes unseen. Inflammation and Chronic Illness Chronic inflammation happens when the body continues to release inflammatory cells even after the injury has healed or the invader has been eliminated. While there are many reasons why this happens and can vary between individuals, research shows that diet plays a primary role in inflammation in the body.  Many studies have shown the healing power of food, and that certain components of foods have anti-inflammatory effects.  By choosing the right foods, you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. If you’ve already been …

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Chronic Illness-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving is meant for gathering around the table to enjoy time with and connect to friends and family. Chronic illness symptoms like fatigue, achy joints and muscles, and pain are not invited to the table. While a warm, heavy, and possibly sugary dish can bring people together in a special way, it can also cause inflammation. Evidence shows that there is a link between inflammation and chronic conditions like cancer, autoimmune disease, lung and heart disease, gut disorders, asthma, and diabetes.   Inflammation happens when the body continues to release inflammatory cells even long after an injury heals or you’ve recovered from an illness. Studies suggest that diet plays a primary role in  inflammation in the body. When you choose foods with anti-inflammatory properties, you can reduce your risk of illness and help reduce symptoms you may already be experiencing. Whether you have diabetes, IBS, heart disease, or another chronic condition, adhering to your normal diet is an important part of keeping the focus on the purpose of Thanksgiving and not your symptoms.  Chronic Illness-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes If you or a loved one has a chronic illness (or maybe just wants to eat a little healthier around the holidays), you …

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Navigating the Holidays with a Chronic Illness

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year, and it can be hard to get into the spirit when you’re living with a chronic illness. While there are a lot of joyful parts about the holidays, there are also some stressful parts. That’s why it’s important to recognize what aspects of the holiday seasons trigger your symptoms and to have a plan in place to reduce them.  Do the holidays make chronic illness worse?  Navigating the holidays with a chronic illness can be difficult, especially when it comes to adhering to your diet, routine, and leaning on your support system.   With holiday events and get-togethers, there can be temptation to abandon the routines that help manage chronic illness symptoms. This can be anything from indulging in foods you wouldn’t normally eat to staying up past your usual bedtime.   The holidays can bring a lot of pressure, too. If you usually host family and friends, you want to do everything possible to make their experience memorable and enjoyable. If you’re used to doing these things yourself but have found your symptoms are worse this year, you might have trouble asking for help or saying no when you need to.  There is often stigma around chronic illness, especially “invisible” diseases like diabetes, depression, or fibromyalgia. You may not feel comfortable discussing your illness with family and friends, and so you keep your symptoms to yourself and isolate.  Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy the holidays despite having a chronic illness by prioritizing self-care and making time for the things that matter most to …

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