Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder that affects a person's ability to move. It is often referred to as a motor system disorder. When a person has Parkinson's, some cells within the brain, known as neurons, begin to malfunction and eventually start to die off. Healthy neurons produce dopamine, which helps control the body's movements. As neurons fail, that affects how the body moves.
Parkinson's disease primarily develops in adults 50 or older. The exact cause of the disease is not known. Though there is no cure for Parkinson's, there are treatments that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
The signs of Parkinson's disease are four unique symptoms: impaired balance and coordination, slow movements, stiffness in the torso, arms or legs and trembling in the hands, legs, arms or face. There is no specific test for Parkinson's disease, so doctors will look for these symptoms when attempting to make a diagnosis. Most often, symptoms begin subtly and gradually worsen over time. Some people with Parkinson's may only experience one or two of these symptoms, and others may have all of them.
Parkinson's disease can vary greatly from person to person. Some may have only mild symptoms, such as a bit of trembling that stays consistent for many years. In others, the disease can progress quickly to the point where the person is severely disabled and heavily dependent on others for care. Over time, the initial symptoms of Parkinson's can lead to complications with chewing, swallowing, speaking or breathing. Difficulty using the bathroom and sleeping are also common.
Medications, surgery and certain therapies are all used to treat Parkinson's disease. The most common treatment for Parkinson's, and the one that is usually tried first, is a combination of two drugs, levodopa and carbidopa. This replenishes the brain's supply of dopamine and alleviates some symptoms, but its effectiveness wears off with time. Other drugs can be used to increase levodopa's effectiveness and also to treat other symptoms. A therapy called deep brain stimulation, using electrodes, also has been approved for Parkinson's.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Parkinson's Disease Foundation
A single concussion may increase the risk of Parkinson's disease, new study finds.
Scans showed areas with decreased connectivity
Caffeine has no impact, says long-term trial that reverses earlier findings
Caffeine does not help improve movement symptoms in Parkinson's disease, study finds
Study suggests fading sense of smell often occurs years before symptom onset
Asthma medications may lower risk, but much more research is needed
Online visits saved patients more than two hours and 100 miles of driving, study found
Voice coaching appears to help swallowing and breathing, study finds
Byetta improved symptoms of motor disease in small, short trial, but more research needed
Study found richer, better-educated folks with these brain diseases are more likely to die
Changes in sight could signal disease a decade before motor symptoms surface, study suggests
Doctors should counsel patients that if they have one disease, they're at risk of the other
But the connection was only seen with certain types of the cholesterol-lowering drugs
Study showed 3 or more servings daily raised chances of the movement disorder, but absolute risk still low
They work by affecting brain chemicals that regulate mood, FDA explains
They more often wind up in the ER and face higher medical costs than white patients, study shows
2-year difference seen between people with degenerative brain diseases and their healthy peers
Swedish scientists find link through vagus nerve removal
Study finds apomorphine cuts the time until levodopa kicks in for those with advanced disease
Saliva analysis can indicate higher risk of Parkinson's disease, among others, agency says
New study adds to evidence that these conditions might be linked somehow