Over the years, several of our favourite Emmerdale characters have battled with gruelling illnesses, with everything from vascular dementia and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, through to terminal cancer and schizophrenia.
But the latest dales resident to sadly suffer a life-changing illness, is fan favourite Eric Pollard, who received a devastating diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in heartbreaking scenes which aired on Wednesday, 1 November.
As regular viewers will know, Eric has been behaving a little oddly in recent weeks, with the truth finally emerging in emotional scenes as he tearfully confided in Mandy Dingle about what he had been going through, before sharing the news about his health with her.
Opening up about just how important the storyline is for viewers, show producer Laura Shaw commented: “When Eric Pollard is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he’s naturally very scared and unsure of what the condition means for his future.
“The unique position of a show like Emmerdale means we can tell this story really authentically over a long period of time and we can really shine a light on what a diagnosis like this means and follow Pollard on his journey of learning to live with it.
She then added: “Working closely with Parkinson’s UK, who have been guiding us through every step of the way, we hope seeing Pollard’s story helps to raise awareness of Parkinson’s and show the day to day reality of those living with it, as well as the impact it can have on friends, family and the local community.”
But what exactly is Parkinson’s disease and what are the symptoms of the illness?
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition, in which the brain becomes progressively damaged over many years.
It affects around 153,000 people in the UK and every hour two more people are diagnosed with the life-changing illness.
Typically, most people affected by the disease start to experience symptoms after the age of 50, although some people can also experience symptoms prior to the age of 40.
Although the disease also affects both men and women, men are slightly more likely to get Parkinson’s than women.
What causes it?
Parkinson’s is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain that produces dopamine, the substantia nigra.
Dopamine is a vital chemical that helps the central nervous system to function, and is needed for everything from movement control and cognitive executive functions, right through to regulating emotional activity.
Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear, but most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.
What are the symptoms?
Like many diseases, Parkinson’s doesn’t just have one set of symptoms, with everybody’s case being different – however there are several common symptoms that typically affect those living with the condition.
The three main symptoms are:
- Involuntary shaking of parts of the body, sometimes known as a tremor
- Slow movement
- Stiff and inflexible muscles
However, a person with Parkinson’s disease may also experience a wide variety of other psychological and physical symptoms, which include:
- Depression and anxiety
- Balance problems, leading to falls
- Loss of sense of smell
- Sleeping difficulties
- Memory problems
How is it treated?
After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s cisease, a number of different treatments are available to help reduce the main symptoms of the illness and maintain the quality of life for as long as possible.
These treatments may be medication based, with drugs such as levodopa, a dopamine agonist or an MAO-B inhibitor to help increase the amount of dopamine in the brain, or act as a dopamine substitute.
However, treatment could also take the form of physiotherapy or occupational therapy to help support you in day to day life.
In some cases, brain surgery may even be considered.
Can it be cured?
Sadly, although treatments to manage Parkinson’s are available, there is currently no cure for the disease.
Thankfully however, advances in treatment mean that most people with Parkinson’s disease now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.
Where can I find support?
If you think you may be suffering from the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, your first point of call will be your GP, who will be able to assess your condition and take a look at the problems you’re experiencing.
They may refer you onto a speciality doctor, called a neurologist, to test for Parkinson’s or to rule out the condition.
Following a diagnosis, further support and information can also be found with Parkinson’s UK, the main Parkinson’s support and research charity in the UK.
You can contact them by:
- Calling their free helpline on 0808 800 0303 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays)
- Emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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