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About Parkinson’s

Symptoms

What Is Parkinson Disease (PD)?

Parkinson disease is a chronic progressive neurological disease that affects a small area of nerve cells (neurons) in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra. These cells normally produce dopamine, a chemical (neurotransmitter) that transmits signals between areas in the brain that, when working normally, coordinate smooth and balanced muscle movement. It is now known that there are other areas of the brain that can be involved which results in non-motor symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease causes these nerve cells to die, and as a result, body movements and other functions are affected. We do not yet know what causes these cells to die. “Parkinsonism” is a term that is often used interchangeably with Parkinson’s disease. Medically, Parkinsonism refers to any condition that causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.

What Are The Primary Motor Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease?

  • Tremor (when limb is at rest)
  • Bradykinesia (slowness)
  • Rigidity (stiffness)
  • Postural instability (balance problems)

It is important to know that not all of these symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease to be considered. In fact, some people may only notice one or two of these motor symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. Finally, not everyone with PD has a tremor, nor is a tremor proof positive of Parkinson’s. If you suspect PD, see a neurologist or movement disorders specialist.

What Are Some Of The Non-Motor Symptoms?

  • Changes in mood, especially depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Changes in thinking
  • Problems with low blood pressure, bowel, bladder and sweating
  • Skin changes

Who Gets Parkinson’s?

It is estimated that approximately 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson disease. Men are slightly more likely to develop the disease than women, and approximately 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The average age of getting Parkinson’s is 65, however people much younger and much older can also get the disease. In fact, about 10%-20% of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are under age 50, and about half of those are diagnosed before age 40.

Is It Genetic Or Hereditary?

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is not yet known. However, Parkinson’s disease has appeared across several generations of some families, which could indicate that certain forms of the disease are hereditary or genetic. Many researchers think that Parkinson’s disease may be caused by genetic factors combined with other external/environmental factors. The field of genetics is playing an increasingly important role in PD research, and scientists are continually working towards determining the cause or causes of PD.

Is There A Cure?

To date, there is no known cure or way to prevent Parkinson’s disease. However, research is ongoing and remarkable progress is being made. There is very real hope that the causes, whether genetic, environmental, or some combination of the two, will soon be identified and the precise effects of these causes on brain function will be understood. Although there is no cure for the disease at this time, by identifying symptoms and determining a proper course of treatment, most people with the disease are able to remain active and lead fulfilling lives.

Research

APDA has participated in the funding of major PD scientific discoveries. In addition to supporting nine centers for advanced research located in major academic medical centers across the country, individual research grants and fellowships are awarded for promising research by experienced and young scientists. A prominent panel of the country’s most outstanding neurologists and scientists reviews all research applications and recommends funding of the more promising ones.

Are There Doctors Who Specialize In Parkinson’s Disease?

Doctors who are specially trained to diagnose and treat conditions of the brain and nervous system are called neurologists. Some neurologists have completed an internship in movement disorders and work extensively with patients who have Parkinson’s disease and other similar conditions.

How Do I Find A PD Specialist?

Larger hospitals or university systems often have movement disorder clinics. If you do not live in or near a large city, you may have to travel farther for an appointment. While not as convenient, you may find it worthwhile to work with a physician who deals exclusively with movement disorders. Often, once stabilized, in-person appointments are required about once per year. Click here to find a movement disorder specialist in your area.

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