Parkinson’s disease is a complex neurodegenerative brain disorder that affects more than half a million people in the United States. It progresses slowly and typically impacts people between the ages of 55 and 65 years old. Symptoms vary from patient to patient, however Parkinson’s disease is usually associated with the following movement and non-movement symptoms:
Common movement (motor) related symptoms:
- Tremor or trembling of the arms, jaw legs, and face
- Stiffness or rigidity of the limbs
- Slowness of movement
- Impaired balance and coordination
Typical non-movement (non-motor) related symptoms:
- Urinary problems
- Speech difficulties
- Low blood pressure
The cause of Parkinson's disease is unknown, but what is understood is that brain cells in the area of the "substantia nigra" deteriorate. These brain cells are responsible for producing dopamine, which is a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter that sends signals to the muscles to coordinate movement.
Drug therapies are focused on replacing dopamine supplies or addressing specific symptoms associated with the disease. But thanks to recent advances, including the pinpointing of several Parkinson's genes, current research is exploding. Scientists are now picking apart newly discovered biochemical pathways involved in the disease and uncovering new targets for therapy.