Sun, Apr 14, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Shoulder pain may indicate Parkinson’s

MISDIAGNOSIS:A doctor at NTUH said the disease is difficult to diagnose, because most people with such symptoms think that it is work-related stress

By Wu Liang-yi and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Shoulder pain could be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, a neurologist said, citing the case of a 37-year-old with the symptom being diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s.

The patient, whose name was not released to protect their identity, three years ago had been working in a senior management role when they began experiencing shoulder pain and numbness in the hands.

The symptoms were initially thought to be from adhesive capsulitis, but treatment did not improve their condition, said Wu Ruey-meei (吳瑞美), director of the Center for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), adding that they also experienced slowed movement and difficulty holding objects steadily.

Typically, Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed in people aged 60 or over, Wu said.

Few cases are diagnosed before the age of 40, with only about 15 percent of patients with Parkinson’s at the hospital under 40, she said.

Early-onset Parkinson’s is difficult to diagnose, because most people with symptoms such as joint pain think they are from stress from work, she said.

It is difficult for them to associate the symptoms with Parkinson’s, so they are often ignored, Wu said.

There are more than 50,000 people with the disease in Taiwan, she said.

Overexposure to manganese is a likely factor, so people who work with heavy metals, organic solvents or other chemicals should beware of the risks, she said.

It is unlikely that people over 60 who develop the disease inherited it or could have passed it on, Wu said, adding that most such cases are caused by aging and brain degeneration.

Damage to brain function caused by Parkinson’s disease cannot be reversed, she said.

If the disease is not treated early, movement disorders and loss of mobility can advance quickly, she said, adding that people can lose the ability to speak.

If the disease is discovered early and treatment is begun and maintained, the patient can live a regular life and even keep working, as long as the job does not involve a lot of complex movements, she said.

Parkinson’s disease and dementia are similar in that they are both caused by brain degeneration, she said.

People should keep active and exercise while they are young to help maintain their health, she said, adding that a Mediterranean diet might also reduce the risk of brain degeneration.

Treatment comes in many forms, depending on the symptoms of each patient, Wu said.

The center collaborated with the Parkinson Alliance of Taiwan to record a song titled Brave Every Day (勇敢每一天), which tells of the real-life experiences of people who have the disease.

The song was released on Tuesday.

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