Parkinson disease (or Parkinson) is
the most common form of Parkinsonism, a group of motor system disorders. It is a disease
that slowly gets worse over time. It is caused by the loss of brain cells that make
dopamine. Dopamine is a substance that helps with smooth and coordinated muscle
movement. Parkinson often has these symptoms:
The cause of Parkinson is unknown.
Experts believe the symptoms are linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by
brain-cell death. Parkinson is chronic. Symptoms grow worse over time.
This disease may appear in younger
people (even teenagers). But it often affects people in late middle age. It is not
Experts think that in most people
the cause of Parkinson is a mix of genetics and environmental exposure. Studies have
shown that rural living, exposure to well water, and exposure to agricultural pesticides
and herbicides are linked to Parkinson. But these factors do not guarantee you will get
the disease. Nor does their absence prevent it.
In the other forms of Parkinsonism,
either the cause is known or suspected. Or the disorder occurs as a secondary effect of
some other neurological problem. These forms are sometimes called Parkinson syndrome,
atypical Parkinson, or, simply, Parkinsonism. They may be caused by:
Parkinsonism may also occur with other nervous system problems. These include:
The biggest risk factor for
Parkinson is advancing age. The average age for Parkinson symptoms to start is 60 years.
Men are affected more than women. But the reason for this is unclear.
Family history is another key risk
factor. A person with an affected parent or sibling has a 4% to 9% higher chance of
getting Parkinson. This higher risk is most likely because of a mix of environmental and
genetic factors. Having 1 or more close relatives with Parkinson raises the risk of the
disease. But unless the person has a known genetic change (mutation) for Parkinson, the
increased risk is 2% to 5%.
These are the most common symptoms of Parkinson:
Symptoms of Parkinson vary from
person to person. The symptoms may appear slowly and in no certain order. Early symptoms
may be subtle. They may slowly get worse over many years before reaching a point where
they mess with normal daily activities.
Other symptoms are divided into motor (movement-related) and non-motor symptoms.
As the disease gets worse, walking
may become affected. It may cause the person to stop in mid-stride or "freeze" in place,
and maybe even fall over. People also may start walking with a series of quick, small
steps as if hurrying forward to keep balance. This is known as festination.
The symptoms of Parkinson may look
like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Diagnosing Parkinson in the early
stages can be hard. At first, signs and symptoms may look like other health problems or
the effects of normal aging. For this reason, your healthcare provider may want to watch
your symptoms for some time until they are consistently there.
Right now, there are no blood or
lab tests to diagnose Parkinson. Diagnosis of Parkinson is based mainly on a health
history and nervous system exam. Brain scans or lab tests may be done to help rule out
other diseases or conditions. But brain scans generally will turn out to be normal with
You may need:
So far, there is no cure for
Parkinson. But your healthcare provider can plan treatment based on the severity of the
symptoms and other factors. You may need:
Once the diagnosis has been made,
the next decision is whether medicine is an option. This depends on:
No 2 people react the same way to a
given medicine. It takes time and patience to find the right medicine and dose to ease
In some cases, your healthcare
provider may advise surgery. Surgery may help with symptoms. But it does not cure the
disease or stop it from getting worse.
It may help the tremor or rigidity
that comes with the disease. In some people, surgery may decrease the amount of medicine
needed to control the symptoms of Parkinson.
There are 2 types of surgeries for
Parkinson is a chronic disease that
gets worse over time. Treatment can help ease symptoms. You can also do a lot to stay
independent, such as:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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