Parkinson's disease sufferers are being subjected to “intolerable levels of prejudice”, a charity has warned, after it was found that two in five of those afflicted with the disease have experienced discrimination because of their symptoms.
Parkinson's UK said that 41 per cent of sufferers say they have been discriminated against because they suffer from the disease.
And 8 per cent said they have experienced hostility or have been verbally abused in public because of symptoms of the neurological condition , according to a new poll conducted by Parkinson's UK on 2,900 sufferers.
The degenerative disease affects 127,000 people across the UK, and symptoms can include shaking, slowness of movement and rigidity.
The research, undertaken to highlight Parkinson's Awareness Week, also found that one in five Parkinson's sufferers have had their symptoms mistaken for drunkenness.
And almost a quarter of sufferers admitted they avoid going out at busy times of the day because they are wary of people's reactions to them.
Steve Ford, chief executive at Parkinson's UK, said: "Our research confirms that far too many people with Parkinson's are having to battle against intolerable levels of prejudice.
"Life with Parkinson's can be challenging enough, but when that is coupled with feeling scared to even go out in public for fear of freezing in a busy queue and being tutted or stared at - as over half the people we spoke to do - life can feel incredibly cruel.
"Time and again people with Parkinson's have to fight against the old stereotype that the condition is just a tremor. This basic misunderstanding has sentenced people with Parkinson's to a life of hurtful comments, being refused service in shops and even being shouted at in the street all because people have mistaken their speech or movement problems - a common symptom of the condition - for drunkenness."
Sufferer Ruth Martin, a mother of two from Holmfirth, west Yorkshire, said that since her diagnosis in 2008 she has struggled to deal with how people react to her condition.
The 41-year-old said: "I've experienced all sorts of discrimination since I've had Parkinson's, but one incident really stands out. I was having a bad day and was waiting in a queue in a pharmacy. The man standing behind me with his wife said really loudly to her "just stand back a bit love, the woman in front has been drinking".
"I felt like crying but even so I told him that I had Parkinson's. The whole shop was listening and there was part of me that wanted to scream out - I felt like I couldn't go anywhere.
"People have been very confrontational towards me, and I have even been followed round a supermarket by a security guard who obviously thought I was acting suspiciously. I just wish that if people saw others staggering or struggling that it would cross their minds to wonder if they've got Parkinson's."