Parkinson’s Disease

What is Parkinson Disease?

Parkinson Disease is a brain disorder. It occurs when certain nerve cells (neurons) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired. Normally, these cells produce a vital chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine allows smooth, coordinated function of the body’s muscles and movement. When approximately 80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson disease appear.

Printable Parkinson’s Disease Glossary

Demystify common terms used in the doctor’s office and in the research lab.
A is for alpha-synuclein? Published by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, this free comprehensive guide defines the most commonly used terms for symptoms, treatments and Parkinson’s disease research. Print it out and keep it handy for the next time you hear an unfamiliar term, and share it with family and friends too.

· Six pages of Parkinson’s disease-related definitions
· Printable and easy to read
· ​Reviewed by Parkinson’s research experts and one of the Foundation’s staff movement disorder specialists

Click here to download the Parkinson’s Disease Glossary (PDF) – published by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Parkinson’s Disease affects each person uniquely. Click here to read personal reflections on coping with PD.

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) is offering four educational symposia for people with Parkinson’s Disease, carepartners and family members and allied health professionals. Each sympsoium will feature Parkinson’s experts discussing the latest advances in research and treatments. You can watch each event’s webcast LIVE or after the event.

Review recently published Parkinson’s Disease research from the University of Rochester Medical Center. Data Collected in 1980s Points to Method to Predict Course of Disease. Click here for the report. This report was published October 2009.

What are the signs and symptoms of Parkinson disease?

The loss of dopamine production in the brain causes the primary symptoms of Parkinson Disease. The key signs of Parkinson Disease are:

  • Tremor (shaking)
  • Slowness of movement
  • Rigidity (stiffness)
  • Difficulty with balance

Other signs of Parkinson Disease may include:

  • Small, cramped handwriting
  • Stiff facial expression
  • Shuffling walk
  • Muffled speech
  • Depression
Who gets Parkinson Disease?

Parkinson Disease affects both men and women in almost equal numbers. It shows no social, ethnic, economic or geographic boundaries. In the United States, it is estimated that 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, joining the 1.5 million Americans who currently have Parkinson disease. While the condition usually develops after the age of 65, 15% of those diagnosed are under 50.

How is Parkinson Disease diagnosed?

The process of making a Parkinson disease diagnosis can be difficult. There is no X-ray or blood test that can confirm Parkinson Disease. A physician arrives at the diagnosis only after a thorough examination. Blood tests and brain scans known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be performed to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms. People suspected of having Parkinson disease should consider seeking the care of a neurologist who specializes in Parkinson Disease.

What is the treatment for Parkinson Disease?

There are a number of effective medicines that help to ease the symptoms of Parkinson Disease. Most symptoms are caused by lack of dopamine. The medicines most commonly used will attempt to either replace or mimic dopamine, which improves the tremor, rigidity and slowness associated with Parkinson Disease. Several new medicines are being studied that may slow the progression. Many promise to improve the lives of people with Parkinson disease.

Can surgery help Parkinson Disease?

Surgery can ease the symptoms of Parkinson Disease, but it is not a cure. Because of the risks associated with brain surgery, it is usually not considered unless all appropriate medications have been tried unsuccessfully. When considering surgery, it is important to see both a neurologist and brain surgeon who specialize in the treatment of Parkinson Disease.

Courtesy of The National Parkinson Foundation – Copyright 2004