Suffering from Parkinson's and Gaucher disease, I write from personal experience regularly once a week and this is my 50th article for The Huffington Post. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to reach a wide audience, although I realise the topic of living with chronic disease is far from hot scintillating gossip, and it's news that rarely makes the headlines, it is however, an issue that unfortunately millions around the world can relate to.
Coming up with something new to write each week has not been a problem, but typing is becoming increasingly challenging. Parkinson's makes even the most dexterous fingers stiff and rigid. Thank goodness for the "undo" button and "auto correct" without which my job would be far more difficult. Although I am only 50 years old, (apparently this is the new '40' so I've been told!) my body often feels much older. No face lifts, tummy tucks or Botox can help at this point, not that I'm in favour of elective surgery, but Parkinson's with a strong will of its own is re-shaping both my physical appearance and life in general.
I must confess I am guilty of watching 'makeover' programmes on television, and often wonder what possesses a person to go to such drastic lengths to change their appearance. The end results are often remarkable, but is society so shallow today, that some will do almost anything, undergoing elective surgery and invasive procedures to look younger, and in their eyes, more attractive? A poor face lift will often look false, the skin stretched so tight, facial expressions are not natural and the person can end up looking as if they are wearing a mask. How lucky am I then, to have Parkinson's, (I say with great sarcasm!) which has given me for free the "masking effect" which resembles a bad face lift often leaving me expressionless.
The stereotypic symptom of someone with Parkinson's is they merely shake. With today's wide array of medications, the shaking can be brought under control to some degree, but there are many more rotten symptoms such as rigidity, painful muscles, internal tremors, poor balance, change in gait, slowness of movement, loss of dexterity, inability to swallow, choking on food, lost sense of smell, insomnia, extreme fatigue, loss of voice and difficulty in speech and quite a few more, but I think you get the picture.
A common symptom of Parkinson's, is constipation. You are probably thinking this is a very personal subject to be writing about, but I know that fellow sufferers are likely to be experiencing this problem, we don't like talking about. As so many suffer from constipation I feel this important delicate issue needs to be addressed.
If you have Parkinson's, you'll know only too well, and maybe even think "thank goodness I'm not the only one suffering problems in this area". Many patients feel this is extremely personal, and far too embarrassing to talk about or tell one's doctor. Yet here I am, writing about this very common problem, which affects millions of patients worldwide. Next time you see your doctor, do yourself a favour, and speak frankly with him/her if you are suffering constipation. I can assure you, it wont be the first time your doctor has heard this, so don't feel ridiculous or silly mentioning it, for it is far from trivial, and anything that can improve your quality of life and condition is worth tackling and finding a solution.
Constipation should not to be made light of, as it can be quite disturbing, a continual problem, uncomfortable and even painful. Some Parkinson's patients experience constipation due to the improper functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating smooth muscle activity. If the system is not working properly, the intestinal tract may very well work slowly thereby causing constipation. In addition, various Parkinson's medications cause constipation, and it's well-known that strong pain killers are also a large contributing factor. Add into the equation a lack of mobility and exercise and the problem becomes magnified.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with constipation; be it laxative pills (although it is unwise to rely on these solely on a constant basis). There are other things you can try such as eating porridge (oats or bran) for breakfast, adding extra roughage to one's diet, steeping prunes in hot water and then eating the prunes along with the water they have been soaking in, drinking more water and exercising as much as one can to get the whole body moving and functioning. I hope that speaking frankly about a common Parkinson's problem we don't like to talk about, is of help, and you realise you're not alone!