The three words ‘you have Parkinson’s’ are not the ones anyone wants to hear. For those diagnosed at a younger age, it’s likely to have taken some time even to reach that conclusion. Along the way there may have been tests, lots of well-meaning people reassuring you that you’re too young, possibly an operation or two to fix a ‘frozen shoulder’ and the bizarrely almost right but very wrong ‘it’s all in your head’ diagnosis.
People with young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD) may have a longer journey to diagnosis, sometimes seeing multiple doctors and undergoing several tests before reaching a correct conclusion. As with Parkinson’s diagnosed later in life, YOPD is diagnosed based on a person’s medical history and physical examination. When younger people and their clinicians are not expecting Parkinson’s disease (PD), the diagnosis may be missed or delayed. It’s not uncommon for arm or shoulder stiffness to be attributed to arthritis or sports injuries before Parkinson’s is eventually diagnosed. Early onset of Parkinson’s disease can be a worrying diagnosis as it can significantly affect the quality of life of the individual and their family. When Parkinson’s is present at a younger age, it is more likely to have a genetic link. It may also progress differently than Parkinson’s in older people. Being aware of the symptoms can help a person get the treatment and support they need at an early stage.