Young Onset Parkinson’s disease
Updated: Sep 27, 2019
It isn’t fair, you are young, your life is finally advancing exactly the way you want it, you career, family, children, summer vacations. Maybe you are planning to have children and the possibility of passing on Parkinson’s Disease genes terrifies you.
Before we talk about Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease like symptoms it is important to understand and acknowledge the financial, family and employment challenges young people face when diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Socially, people who are affected by Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease experience the disease differently. They are at a different stage of their life and career and often have less time to get diagnosed and take care of themselves.
Most people develop classic Parkinson’s Disease symptoms in their late 50s or older. Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease occurs in people younger than 50. Sometimes we see people exhibiting symptoms in their 40s, 30s and even as young as 20s.
In rare cases, Parkinson's Disease like symptoms can develop in children and teenagers. This form of the disorder is called juvenile Parkinsonism and it is most often link to specific, high risk Parkinson’s Disease genetic mutations.
Unlike people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease later in life, Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis is frequently associated with family history of Parkinson’s disease. The younger you are, the more likely the condition is genetic. But don’t despair, although genetics plays a larger role in young-onset it is not a guarantee. Most likely the disease is caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental exposures so some people with Parkinson’s Disease genetics may never develop Parkinson’s at all.
Should You Get a Genetic Test?
If you’ve been considering genetic testing, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, once you learn information, you can’t “unknow” it.
If you do get results that show you are genetically predisposed to a disease, it’s a good idea to speak with your health care provider about what this means for your health and what you should do to minimize your risk of developing the disease.
It’s also important to note that, just because you’re predisposed to a disease doesn’t mean you will ever get it. Likewise, even though you might not have tested for any genetic markers for Parkinson’s Disease, that doesn’t mean you’re immune from it. That’s why it is important to pay attention to your health regardless of your genetic test results.
The genes linked to Parkinson’s Disease are SNCA, PARK2, PINK1 and LRRK2.
How Is Young-Onset PD Different?
People with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease may experience the same non-motor symptoms as others with Parkinson’s, but long before more pronounced symptoms.
What’s important to know is that Young Onset Parkinson’s like symptoms began long before the pronounced classic symptoms appear, sometimes ten or more years before. They begin slowly, sometimes over a long period of time. They are faint, unpronounced and easy to misinterpret. There could be some internal tremors, some rigidity, gut problems (constipation), urinary problems, cramping, arching of the foot (dystonia), depression, sleep disorder, memory and thinking changes. When you are young and have whole life ahead of you, you didn’t think much of it.
It is not uncommon for people with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease to get misdiagnosed so if you suspect that something is wrong especially if you have a family history of Parkinson’s, find a neurologist or movement disorder specialist and get properly diagnosed.