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  »   How is Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease Different?

  »   Why Is Distinguishing Young-Onset Parkinson's Important?

  »   Causes & Theories

  »   Therapy & Treatment

Young Onset Parkinson's Disease (YOPD) occurs in people younger than 50 years of age. Most people with idiopathic, or typical, Parkinson's Disease develop symptoms at 50 years of age or older.

Symptoms are similar to late onset Parkinson's Disease but it is important to understand the challenges Young Onset Parkinson's individuals often face at a financial, family and employment levels. In rare instances, Parkinson's-like symptoms can appear in children and teenagers. This form of the disorder is called Juvenile Parkinsonism and is often associated with specific, high-Parkinson's Disease risk genetic mutations.

Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease is diagnosed similarly to late onset Parkinson's Disease with symptoms including:
  »  Tremors of the hand, arms, legs, jaw and face
  »  Rigidity of the limbs and trunk
  »  Bradykinesia
  »  Postural instability or impaired balance and coordination

People with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease may experience the same non-motor symptoms as others with Parkinson's Disease, including:
  »  Depression
  »  Sleep Disturbances
  »  Changes in memory and thinking
  »  Constipation or urinary problems

How Is Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease Different?
People diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease have a more frequent family history of Parkinson's Disease and a longer survival. People living with young onset Parkinson's may experience:
  »  Slower progression of Parkinson's Symptoms
  »  More side effects from dopaminergic medications
  »  More frequent dystonias (cramping and abnormal postures) such as arching of the foot

Why Is Distinguishing Young-Onset Parkinson's Important?
Socially, people who are affected by Parkinson's Disease at a younger age experience the disease differently - they may be at different stages of their career and often have less time to engage in their own care. They may also have children or are planning to have children and have questions regarding passing on the Parkinson's Disease genes.

Medically, doctors tailor the treatments when it is a young person with Parkinson's. The younger you are, the more likely the disease is genetic. Your care team may offer genetic testing or counselling. Younger brains also have a higher neuroplasticity potential which allows the brain to handle and respond to disease and therapy differently.

Causes and Theories
For most people with Parkinson's Disease, the disease is caused by a combination of underlying genetic predisposition and environmental exposures. But genetics plays a larger role in young-onset Parkinson's. Scientists have discovered genes that can cause or increase the risk of developing Parkinson's at a younger age.

People who have both early-onset Parkinson's Disease and a strong family history of the disease are more likely to carry genes linked to Parkinson's Disease, such as SNCA, PARK2, PINK1 and LRRK2. In fact, a recent study found that 65 percent of people with Parkinson's onset under 20 years old and 32 percent of people with onset between 20 and 30 had a genetic mutation believed to increase Parkinson's Disease risk.

Theoretically, genes may play a larger role in young-onset Parkinson's Disease, while environmental factors may play more of a role is sporadic Parkinson's. But to date researchers have found this hard to prove, as we are still improving our understanding of the biological mechanisms of the disease.

Therapy and Treatment
When it comes to medical treatment, people with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease have a significantly greater risk of developing the following:
  »  Dyskinesias or involuntary movements (most commonly dystonia) as a side effect of Carbidopa/Levodopa (the drug prescribed most often to treat Parkinson's).
  »  Motor fluctuations when taking Levodopa

If diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease, it is important to seek treatment from a movement disorder specialist or a neurologist with expertise in movement disorders. Each person's treatment is unique and can require fine adjustments of multiple medications. Deep Brain Stimulation remains a surgical option for people with Young Onset Parkinson's.

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