Plymouth dad loses sense of smell after devastating diagnosis

A Plymouth dad has completely lost his sense of smell and says he can look ‘expressionless’ after being diagnosed with a debilitating condition. Steve Soper was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2019 and his life has seen major changes as a result.

The 50-year-old from Mount Wise was diagnosed with the progressive disease at just 46 – 14 years earlier than the average diagnosis age. According to the National Institute of Aging, just five to ten percent of people with Parkinson’s experience onset before they reach 50.

Steve says when was told he had Parkinson’s – which gradually affects a person’s balance and coordination – he was very unfit and had to make a lot of changes to his lifestyle while navigating the changes he was experiencing.

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Steve said there are symptoms with Parkinson’s most people may not realise. “Symptoms for me include complete loss of smell, very poor handwriting which is a symptom generally,” he said.

“If you saw my face sometimes it can be expressionless or I may look miserable, even though I’m not, facial masking gives that appearance. I also have difficulty sleeping sometimes. My back is very stiff, my movements aren’t as smooth as anyone else’s may be.”

Steve says his motor skills in his right arm and hand are not as good as they should be. “Things like typing can be difficult,” he added. “My right leg sometimes cramps up and it looks like I’m limping. People associate Parkinson’s with tremors, but I don’t have a tremor.”

After finding out exercise helps alleviate the condition, Steve took up running. “The disease is progressive, there’s nothing to stop it – but exercise can help, apparently, it helps slow the disease down,” he said.

Due to the positive impact of exercise on his condition, Steve was inspired to run his first marathon after watching his daughter, Emily compete in the Cardiff Half Marathon last year.

He said he decided to train for the marathon and “get fit”, as well as raise some money for Parkinson’s UK. On Sunday, October 1, Steve ran 13 miles at the event, raising £5,080 for charity.

Steve’s fundraising page for Parkinson’s UK is still open and you can donate here.

What is Parkinson’s?

The following information has been taken from the Parkinson’s Foundation.

Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. People with PD may experience:

  • Tremor, mainly at rest and described as pill rolling tremor in hands; other forms of tremor are possible
  • Slowness and paucity of movement (called bradykinesia and hypokinesia)
  • Limb stiffness (rigidity)
  • Gait and balance problems (postural instability)

In addition to movement-related (“motor”) symptoms, Parkinson’s symptoms may be unrelated to movement (“non-motor”). People with PD are often more impacted by their non-motor symptoms than motor symptoms. Examples of non-motor symptoms include: depression, anxiety, apathy, hallucinations, constipation, orthostatic hypotension, sleep disorders, loss of sense of smell, and a variety of cognitive impairments.

The Parkinson’s Foundation says: “The cause remains largely unknown. Scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors are the cause.”

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