Forty percent of people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are women, but compared to men, they have a longer time to diagnosis, less access to neurologist care, and are underrepresented in research studies. Although PD presents special considerations for women, they are, overall, treated the same as men. Some of the differences are body weight, drug metabolism, symptoms, monthly hormone cycles, hormonal changes across different stages of life, pregnancy, and family and other care giving responsibilities and occupational demands, all of which can affect their disease and its treatment. However, these special needs have largely been underrecognized and under-addressed by the medical profession.
Six women health care professionals, three of whom have PD, authored a paper titled “Unmet Needs of Women Living with Parkinson's Disease: Gaps and Controversies” to bring these issues to the fore, identify current knowledge, gaps, and possible strategies to meet the neglected needs of women with PD.
Some of these areas of need are management of the disease, psychosocial issues, advocacy, research on sex and gender issues, and participation of women in research studies. One of the authors is Annalien Oosterbaan, MD, PhD, who has Young-Onset Parkinson's disease and is an obstetrician/gynecologist, researcher at the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and a mother, and whom we spoke with for this podcast. She said the paper lays out a path forward for medical professionals to recognize the unique needs of women with PD and for women to become educated and empowered to communicate their symptoms and needs, participate in research, and to organize as a community.
- The Unmet Needs of Women with Parkinson’s (blog)
- Fact Sheet: Women and Parkinson’s Disease
- Expert Care: Addressing Women's Needs
- Episode 50: Encountering Gender Differences: Women and PD Initiative (podcast)
- Women and Parkinson’s Research and Care Agenda
About This Episode
Released: June 14, 2022
Annelien Oosterbaan MD, PhD
Annelien Oosterbaan, MD, PhD, 39 years old and living in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is an active mother of 4 kids and also a young woman living with Parkinson’s disease, having been diagnosed at age 33. Being a woman as well as a gynecologist, she noticed a cyclic pattern in her Parkinson’s symptoms. Discussing this topic with neurologists made her aware of the lack of knowledge concerning women’s issues in Parkinson’s disease, and she recognized the need for personalized medical care to meet the specific needs of women. She has started doing research on women’s issues in PD, in particular on the influence of female hormonal changes specific to the different phases in a woman’s life on PD symptoms.
For all of our Substantial Matters podcast episodes, visit parkinson.org/podcast.