Parkinson's disease most often develops after age 50. It is one of the most common nervous system disorders of the elderly. Sometimes Parkinson's disease occurs in younger adults. It affects both men and women.
There is no known cure for Parkinson's disease. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms.
Medications control symptoms, mostly by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. At certain points during the day, the helpful effects of the medication often wears off, and symptoms can return.
The four primary symptoms of PD are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks.
PD is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. Although some people become severely disabled, others experience only minor motor disruptions.
In early stages of Parkinson's disease, your face may show little or no expression, or your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson's disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.
In the United States, 50,000-60,000 new cases of PD are diagnosed each year, adding to the one million people who currently have PD. The Center for Disease control rated complications from Parkinson’s disease as the 14th leading cause of death in the United States. Worldwide, it is estimated that four to six million people suffer from the condition.
Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and the most common movement disorder. It is characterized by progressive loss of muscle control, which leads to trembling of the limbs and head while at rest, stiffness, slowness, and impaired balance. As symptoms worsen, it may become difficult to walk, talk, and complete simple tasks.
Most of the movement-related symptoms of Parkinson's disease are caused by a lack of dopamine due to the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra. When the amount of dopamine is too low, communication between the substantia nigra and corpus striatum becomes ineffective, and movement becomes impaired; the greater the loss of dopamine, the worse the movement-related symptoms.
Historians have found evidence of the disease as far back as 5000 B.C. It was first described as "the shaking palsy" in 1817 by British doctor James Parkinson. Because of Parkinson's early work in identifying symptoms, the disease came to bear his name.
Both men and women can have Parkinson’s disease. However, the disease affects about 50 percent more men than women.
Although doctors don't know what exactly causes Parkinson's, they think it stems from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.