One million people battle Parkinson’s

Luncheon attendees wait for Dr. John Bertoni to arrive at Brian LGH East for his presentation on Parkinson’s disease.

Photo and story by Jessica Sorensen, NewsNetNebraska

More than 4,500 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every month.

But Dr. John Bertoni has a strong message. You are not alone. Approximately one million people suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center neurologist talked to an audience of almost 100 people at the Lincoln Parkinson’s Disease Support Group special luncheon on November 15.

Every month the group holds a meeting for people with the disease and caregivers at the Madonna Rehabilitation Center. However, this month’s meeting was different. The group hosted a special luncheon at Brian LGH featuring Bertoni as the speaker.

Here are some key points from Bertoni’s presentation:

  • Average age of onset is 62
  • Younger people can get Parkinson’s disease but it is less common
  • Actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali both have Parkinson’s disease
  • See a dermatologist at least once a year, as people with the disease can get skin cancer
  • Exercise regularly, just don’t overdo it

Although the disease is incurable, it is treatable with prescriptions to help with symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that has symptoms of fatigue, slowness or freezing of movement, tremors, difficult swallowing, stooped posture and depression.

Colleen Andrews attended the meeting for work but said it turned personal as she listened to the symptoms and realized that some pertained to her.

“Dr. Bertoni had really good information, knowledge and it was obvious he has researched Parkinson’s a lot,” she said. “I had a few questions going in but he answered them all.”

Judy Johnson, co-facilitator of the group, said they are trying to learn more about the disease and get more information out to people.

“Parkinson’s is a real high-level concern of ours because so many people have it,” Johnson said. “And yet it’s not well-known in the real world. We just want to get the word out to people about the disease.”

Johnson has been with the group for three years and said it has been around for more than 20 years. The group provides support to people who have the disease, as well as caregivers.

Bertoni said researchers are continuing to look for ways to make Parkinson’s disease curable.

“The new view on treatment for Parkinson’s disease is to begin treatment at the diagnosis,” Bertoni said. “Previously the view on this was to not treat until symptoms interfered with daily activities.”