Some parts of the world are only beginning to understand Parkinson’s disease. Often, the general public misidentifies symptoms of the disease, complicating an early diagnosis.
While researchers are still attempting to understand the causes of Parkinson’s disease, the symptomatology of it has improved in accuracy since James Parkinson originally identified it in the early 19th century.
The following two studies evaluate the relationship between Parkinson’s disease treatment and misinformation or a lack of information about the disease. Does catching the disease at an early stage help us manage it better? It is possible that improving our understanding and access to knowledge about the disease can lead to better treatment.
Parkinson’s disease in Uganda
Finding effective treatment is complicated by a lack of knowledge surrounding a disease. If you are unable to identify a disease’s symptoms, treatment becomes less efficient.
A research article published in 2015 by Mark Kaddumukasa and others suggests that misunderstanding a disease like Parkinson’s can delay early treatment: “Despite advancements in treatment, diagnosis, and care of Parkinson’s disease patients’, lack of adequate knowledge and associated beliefs and attitudes among the community dwellers might have an important role in limiting access to proper treatment and care,” the study’s authors wrote.
So, even though our ability to treat Parkinson’s disease is advancing, misinformation and attitudes surrounding the disease might negatively impact treatment.
In this study, participants were able to recognize Parkinson’s disease symptoms. But misinformation and a lack of understanding of the disease were high. More than half of participants “did not know the body part related to PD. Nearly nineteen percent (71/377) reported that degeneration was responsible for the disease, while 10.1% (38/377) reported it was due to lack of blood supply to the brain.”
This can lead to stigmatization of the disease, which makes it even more difficult to treat.
The authors concluded that: “Public health approaches that improve knowledge are urgently needed to promote care access and community response to Parkinson’s disease” in Uganda. By providing access to information about Parkinson’s disease, it might be possible to improve the treatment of it.
Barriers in Malaysia
Another corner of the earth that has little information circulating about Parkinson’s disease is Malaysia. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease examined the barriers associated with misinformation and lack of knowledge about Parkinson’s disease in that country. The study’s abstract claimed that, “This is the only study on public knowledge regarding PD in Asia,” illuminating how little research was being conducted on Parkinson’s in the region at the time.
Like many of the study participants in Uganda, respondents in Malaysia reported that they also were privy to misinformation: “PD patients (n=116) and caregivers (n=135) demonstrated superior knowledge compared with the general public group, but one-third of them believed that PD is currently curable.”
While the study’s participants exhibited familiarity with Parkinson’s symptoms, there was still a lot of misinformation circulating among them, according to researchers.
This study also showed that participants in Malaysia conveyed inaccurate information about Parkinson’s disease: “Important gaps in knowledge were evident, which could present a barrier to early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of PD,” the study’s authors noted. “This highlights the need for targeted education campaigns and further research in this area.”
Greater information access
Despite advancements in the treatment of Parkinson’s, some regions of the world face significant barriers in diagnosing and treating it. Due to stigmatization of the disease, misinformation, and a lack of information, it can be difficult to identify and treat the disease’s symptoms.
But there is still hope. While Parkinson’s disease is currently incurable, recognizing the disease in its early stages might help to better manage it. Both of these studies suggested that providing greater access to information about the disease might encourage an earlier diagnosis among patients.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.
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