Parkinson's disease (or, simply, Parkinson's or PD) is the most common form of parkinsonism, a group of motor system disorders. It is a slowly progressing, degenerative disease.
What You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease
More than one million people in the United States are living with the neurodegenerative ravages of Parkinson's disease. This disease, which typically hits people past the age of 65, gradually strips away motor abilities, leaving them with a slow and awkward gait, rigid limbs, tremor, shuffling and a lack of balance.
No one knows what causes Parkinson's. Most cases arise spontaneously; some are hereditary. What is known is that brain cells in the area of the brain called the "substantia nigra" die off. These are the cells which manufacture the molecule dopamine, a chemical that helps control muscle movement.
Thanks to recent advances in the lab, including the pinpointing of several Parkinson's genes, research is exploding. Scientists are now picking apart newly discovered biochemical pathways involved in the disease and uncovering new targets for therapy.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
If you or your doctor suspects Parkinson’s disease, your symptoms tell the story. From motor symptoms, like tremor, to nonmotor symptoms, such as a loss of smell, here’s what to watch for.
Read more about Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis
There’s no one definitive test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Doctors must evaluate symptoms, family history and other factors to make a determination. Here’s what’s new.
Read more about Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.
Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Options
With today's medicine, we have yet to find a cure for Parkinson's disease. However, based on the severity of the symptoms and medical profile, the doctor will establish an appropriate treatment protocol.
Read more about Parkinson’s disease treatment.
Parkinson's disease is also called primary parkinsonism or idiopathic Parkinson's disease. (Idiopathic is the term for a disorder for which no cause has yet been identified.)
In the other forms of parkinsonism, either the cause is known or suspected, or the disorder occurs as a secondary effect of another primary neurological disorder that may have both primary and secondary symptoms of Parkinson's disease. These disorders, described as Parkinson's syndrome, atypical Parkinson's, or, simply, parkinsonism, may include the following:
Tumors in the brain
Repeated head trauma
Drug-induced parkinsonism. This occurs due to the prolonged use of tranquilizing drugs, such as the phenothiazines, butyrophenones, reserpine, and the commonly used drug, metoclopramide for stomach upset.
Toxin-induced parkinsonism. This occurs due to manganese and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Postencephalitic parkinsonism. A viral disease that causes "sleeping sickness."
Striatonigral degeneration. The substantia nigra of the brain is only mildly affected, while other areas of the brain show more severe damage.
Parkinsonism that accompanies other neurological conditions. Examples of this are Shy-Drager syndrome, (multiple system atrophy, once thought to be a distinct disease, is now commonly thought to be simply an extensive progression of idiopathic Parkinson's disease), progressive supranuclear palsy, Wilson disease, Huntington's disease, Hallervorden-Spatz syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, olivopontocerebellar atrophy, post-traumatic encephalopathy, and dementia with Lewy bodies.