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Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease

What Is Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD)?

When someone who is 21-40 years old receives a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD), it is referred to as “young onset” Parkinson’s disease. Because the majority of people who get Parkinson’s disease are over the age of 60, it has been (and continues to be) thought of as an “older person’s” disease. Because of this, the disease is often overlooked in younger people, leading many to go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for extended periods of time. Although most symptoms are the same at whatever age PD develops, managing the disease can be particularly challenging for a younger person and the person’s family medically, psychologically and socially.

In general, young people tend to have a smoother course of the illness. Overall, the rate of the disease’s progression is usually much slower in younger than older people, which may be due in part to the fact that younger people tend to have fewer general health problems. Associated problems such as memory loss, confusion and balance difficulties also tend to be less frequent in young people with the disease. However, young people often have more involuntary movement problems due to the most commonly prescribed PD medication, levodopa. For this reason, young onset patients are usually treated initially with alternatives to levodopa. See Treatment to learn more about medications.

Can I Work If I Have Parkinson’s Disease?

It is not only possible to work with young onset Parkinson’s disease, it is probable. Most people who were working prior to diagnosis continue to work for some period of time afterwards.

“How long will I be able to work?” This is usually the more difficult question to answer. The length of time each person continues working will depend on many different factors. Some will be related to the disease itself such as symptoms, medication side effects, or progression of the disease; others are likely to be environmental factors including the overall economy and your particular employer. Learn More.

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