Many people associate Parkinson’s with the elderly. Although the risk of Parkinson’s does increase as we age, Parkinson’s affects people of all ages. The definition varies from source to source, but most refer to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s before the age of 50 as young onset Parkinson’s disease or YOPD. Estimates vary, but between 4% and 10% of people living with Parkinson’s were diagnosed as young onset.
There are some key differences between young onset and idiopathic (or typical) Parkinson’s:
- In general, individuals diagnosed with YOPD may experience a slower progression of Parkinson’s
- Dystonia, an involuntary and sometimes painful contraction of your muscles that leads to twisting, pulling, or bending across a joint is more common in those with YOPD and may be one of the first symptoms experienced
- There appears to be a lower rate of cognitive impairment in younger individuals with Parkinson’s, including dementia
- Motor symptoms of both young and older-onset Parkinson’s respond well to medication. Over time though, complications from the medication can become a problem, which leads to ups and downs in your response to Parkinson’s medications throughout the day. Both motor fluctuations (ups and downs in the effectiveness of the medication) and dyskinesia (involuntary movements caused by the medication) can occur earlier in the progression of Parkinson’s and tend to be more severe in YOPD
YOPD presents a unique experience of Parkinson’s. Not only will you live with Parkinson’s longer, but your stage of life is also very different from those diagnosed later, such as in their sixties and seventies. Individuals who are diagnosed at a younger age are often fully engaged in careers, parenting younger children, and providing care for their own parents.
During this panel, people diagnosed with YOPD share their stories about work, kids, relationships, non-motor symptoms, and more.