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What is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a complex neurodegenerative brain disorder that affects more than half a million people in the United States and up to 1 percent of people 60 years old or older. 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:

  • Depression
  • Urinary problems
  • Constipation
  • Low voice volume 
  • Low blood pressure upon standing

The cause of Parkinson's disease is still being unraveled by researchers. We know that genetic variants, and possibly environmental exposures, can lead to an abnormal accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein, and that this puts patients at risk for deterioration of brain cells in the "substantia nigra" portion of the brain.

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.

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Maryland Patients

To request an appointment, please contact the Johns Hopkins Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at 410-502-0133.
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Adult Neurology: 410-955-9441
Pediatric Neurology: 410-955-4259
Adult Neurosurgery: 410-955-6406
Pediatric Neurosurgery: 410-955-7337


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