Secrets of Parkinson's Disease

Even if you think you know everything about Parkinson’s disease the numbers are still stunning. More than one million people are living with it, and 60 thousand will be diagnosed this year alone. Even worse: doctors say thousands more are suffering from the disease, and don't even know it.

Roberta Perkins sports some nifty handiwork, which is tough to do when you've been battling "Parkinson’s Disease" for the past 13 years.

“Everybody expects you're going to shake, that's it. I didn't have Tremors," says Perkins.

One of the many secrets of Parkinson’s: it's far more than a simple movement disorder. The real symptoms of Parkinson’s are anxiety, depression, sweating, erectile dysfunction and bladder problems.

Doctor Melissa Nirenberg from New York Presbyterian Hospital says, "I refer to them as invisible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.” She says, “Those are the worst symptoms for patients and they're often overlooked by family members and physicians because you can't see them."

The next secret is strange side effects. Some common Parkinson’s meds can actually spark addictions.

"They're compulsively gambling, compulsively shopping or buying, compulsively eating and there's even a something called "hobby-ism" where a person's hobby takes over," says Dr. Nirenberg.

Roberta's problems were cleaning and eating - she gained 25 pounds.

Another secret: people with Parkinson's have a higher melanoma risk and should see a dermatologist regularly. Other recent studies show Parkinson’s ups the risk of breast cancer.

Finally, exercise. Reports show it improves symptoms and may slow the progression of the disease. As for Roberta, she's got her own secret for survival:

"I don't feel that I’m sick in any way I do more in a day than people who don't have Parkinson’s," says Perkins.

A strong woman who refuses to let her disease win.

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