First, I want to extend a big thank you to the Parkinson’s foundation (previously PDF) who were at the forefront of the issues that really matter – gender differences in PD. They began a Women in PD initiative a few years back which I had the honor to be part of. Over the last year they held 10 forums across the country to outline the requirements and recommendations for women living with PD. Although, unfortunately I was unable due to health reasons to attend their last session help last month in Houston, I am happy to say that thanks to you who have bought my Parkinson’s Diva book and the many women ardently fighting to have better quality of life along with more research and better treatment guidelines for us women great strides are being made as I write this.
As with any other disease, when dealing with women of childbearing age the social, economical and medical needs are completely different from those not in this subcategory. Aside from this aspect Parkinson’s disease when it affects women has a different flair and tone compared to similar age male counterparts like migraines and strokes. The treatments need to be tailored to the needs of the patients taking into account that course of the disease most likely will be different to that of men of similar age.
What we know
#young women with Parkinson’s take longer to be diagnosed than young men with PD
#women in general have more dyskenesias but is dependent to some extent on body habitus. So more plumb women like myself have lower risk of having dyskenesias( never thought i would be happy about my full size figure!).
# women are at greater risk of osteoporosis and therefore fractures (again weight plays a role- the heavier the less likely to have osteoporosis).
#women especially young present with more non-motor symptoms making it harder to diagnose taking longer for most women with PD to get diagnosis from same doctors treating similar age male patients.
#hormones do play a role in symptoms – PD medicines makes period worse and period makes symptoms worse.
# many symptoms of women with pd are similar to hormone fluctuations caused by menopause thus many doctors unknowingly blame menopause for the symptoms rather than PD or fluctuations with PD medicines or even side effects of pd medicines(e.g. diaphoresis).
#women are more likely to have strokes and vascular problems
#because there is a link between llrk2 and migraines as well as migraines with aura being a risk for PD. Many more women with PD suffer migraines which are often exacerbated by medications as well as neck rigidity, dyskenesias, and torticollis.
#women have more side effects to medications in general especially nausea as well as weight gain and fluid retention which contributes to increase blood pressure and risk for strokes.
# DBS causes more weight gain issues in women.
# women with PD have more UTI’s worsened by many of the medications which in turn can cause more mental status changes
#women with PD may have greater risk of breast cancer
As we wait for final guidelines to come out from initiative
All women with PD and any other medical problem should discuss with their physician the interaction of medication in regards to above – should have a gynecologist/urologist to help avoid/ prevent recurrent infections.
take supplements or treatments necessary especially since vitamin D can be deficient in PD to avoid or decrease risk of fractures due to osteoporosis and find ways to increase daily activity. keep control of blood pressure which in my experience especially Hispanic women like my self tend to run high.
Be proactive- take smaller doses especially if thin.
be informed and find support – and voice your concerns.
A special thank you to Ronnie Todaro, Megan Feeney, Dr. Allison Willis, Sharon Krischer and to everyone that served in women with PD talk forum.
if you not had chance to read Parkinson’s diva- you can still get your copy at amazon
all rights reserved Maria De Leon