As many as one million Americans currently live with Parkinson’s disease and approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed each year. Around the world, more than 10 million people worldwide are living with the disease, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.
A new study published in the journal Brain has shed new light on the genetics behind essential tremor, which is frequently misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. Understanding the differences between both diseases is key to reducing the prevalence of medical mistakes. Here’s everything you need to know about both diseases.
Around the world, nearly one percent of the population suffers from essential tremor. But looking at the 40-years-and-older population, the statistic jumps to four percent. According to the Mayo Clinic, essential tremor also has a large genetic component, which puts those who have a parent with the genetic mutation at a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disorder themselves. The most common symptom is involuntary shaking of hands, although some people can also experience shaking of the head and legs.
“Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder, but many sufferers don’t seek medical help,” said the study’s lead author Simon Girard, a professor at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi in Canada, in a press release. “People suffer from the tremor, but they tend to make do as best they can. Some people have had a tremor for 10 to 20 years or more. They know they have a tremor and they live with it.”
In order to further explore the lesser known disorder, researchers examined the genetic sequencing for a group of 2,809 patients and identified a strong correlation between the condition and a gene known as STK32B. Moving forward, the team hopes to recruit 10,000 additional essential tremor sufferers to further understand the condition and genetics behind it.
In some cases, Parkinson’s disease is genetic but in most instances the disorder is not hereditary. Health experts have said that exposure to chemicals in the environment may also play an important role in the root cause of the disease. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, it can be difficult to tell if you have the disease because it starts off subtle and then gradually worsens overtime. First, your handwriting may have suddenly gotten much small than it was in the past and then the letter sizes change drastically. The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, shaking, loss of smell, trouble with sleeping, dizziness, fainting, and difficulty walking or even moving. By working with a neurologist, those who suffer from essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease can develop a specialized plan in order to reduce the severity of symptoms.