Young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD) occurs in people younger than 50 years of age. Most people with idiopathic, or typical, PD develop symptoms at 50 years of age or older.
YOPD affects about four percent of the one million people with PD in the U.S. Symptoms are similar to late onset PD but it is important to understand the challenges YOPD individuals often face at a financial, family and employment levels.
In rare instances, Parkinson's-like symptoms can appear in children and teenagers. This form of the disorder is called juvenile Parkinsonism and is often associated with specific, high-PD risk genetic mutations.
Young-onset PD is diagnosed similarly to late-onset PD with symptoms including:
- Tremors of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
- The tremors in people with YOPD can sometimes appear faster and somewhat different from the classic parkinsonian resting tremor seen in those with late-onset PD.
- Rigidity of the limbs and trunk
- Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
- Postural instability or impaired balance and coordination
People with YOPD may experience the same non-motor symptoms as others with PD, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in memory and thinking
- Constipation or urinary problems
How is young-onset PD different?
People diagnosed with YOPD have a more frequent family history of Parkinson’s disease and a longer survival. People living with young-onset PD may experience:
- Slower progression of PD symptoms over time, staying functional and cognitively intact for longer duration
- Less frequent cognitive problems such as dementia
- More side effects from dopaminergic medications, such as more frequent dyskinesias (involuntary body movements)
- Earlier and more frequent dystonias (cramping and abnormal postures) such as arching of the foot
Therapy and Treatment
When it comes to medical treatment, people with YOPD have a significantly greater risk of developing the following:
- Dyskinesias (involuntary movements) and dystonias (cramping and abnormal postures), sometimes as a side effect of carbidopa/levodopa (the drug prescribed most often to treat Parkinson’s)
- Motor fluctuations when taking levodopa
Each person’s treatment is unique and can require fine adjustments of multiple medications. Deep brain stimulation remains a surgical option for people with young-onset PD.
Page reviewed by Dr. Jun Yu, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.