What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic, degenerative disorder. It is a type of movement disorder where the nerve cells within the brain do not produce enough dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the portion of the brain that controls movement. As the amount of dopamine produced decreases so does the person’s ability to control their movements.
Parkinson’s disease may affect people in different ways. For some, the disease may progress slowly, while others experience a faster progression of symptoms. Not everyone with Parkinson’s disease experiences all the symptoms and they might not appear in the same order or to the same degree as another Parkinson’s disease patient.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms can include:
- Primary Motor Symptoms: resting tremor, bradykinesia or slowness of movement, balance problems and rigidity.
- Secondary Motor Symptoms: freezing of gait (hesitating before stepping forward), microgaphia (shrinking in handwriting), mask-like expression, unwanted accelerations, stooped posture and dystonia
- Non-Motor Symptoms: loss of smell, cognitive impairment, mood disorders, sleep disturbances and loss of energy.
There is currently no known cause for Parkinson’s disease. There are several factors that increase the risk of developing the disease.
- Advancing Age: This is the biggest risk factor, although there are cases of young adults developing the disease.
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop PD than women. This may be due to an increased exposure to other risk factors including head trauma.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease but medications may be available to treat the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. In some cases, surgery may be an option to treat some of the symptoms.
Interesting Parkinson’s Facts
According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation:
- As many as one million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, and this number does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected.
- An estimated 7 to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease.
- Incidence of Parkinson’s increases with age, but an estimated four percent of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50.
- Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.