Early Onset vs. Early Stage

Early Onset vs. Early Stage Parkinson's Disease

by Julie Sacks, LCSW

Early onset Parkinson's disease (also called young onset Parkinson's disease) is now being recognized and diagnosed more frequently. How do you know if you're considered, "early onset" or "young onset"? It’s a difficult question to answer, especially in our current culture where “40 is the new 30, “50 the new 40” and so on. 

From a medical perspective, young onset Parkinson's disease (YOPD) is defined as diagnosis under the age of 40. Other sources have different definitions; the most common being diagnosis under the age of 50. So what if you are diagnosed at 52? You are working and have two teenage kids who will soon go to college. Are you still considered “young”? Most people with Parkinson's would say yes – once young, always young - because no matter how old you get, you will always know what it's like to have YOPD.

While “early” and “young” are used interchangeably when it comes to diagnosis, in other situations they are not. For example, it is not unusual for people to say they have early onset Parkinson's disease when what they mean is that they have early stage PD. Early stage is just that, it is the beginning stage of the disease which everyone with PD will go through, regardless of their age at onset. 

The APDA National Young Onset Center does not determine young onset in terms of chronological age or stage of illness. Instead, we focus on helping those who are trying to manage the same kinds of challenges younger people with PD face. Employment concerns are often at the top of that list. Parenting, maintaining relationships and managing financial and legal issues are other areas of concern. 

The Center’s Website www.youngparkinsons.org is full of information that addresses the physical, emotional and practical aspects of the disease through articles, personal stories, resources and more. Although created specifically for young onset, much of the site content is relevant to people with PD of all ages. For more information, contact the APDA National Young Onset Center at 877.223.3801 or email us at apda@youngparkinsons.org.


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