Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive disorder of the brain and is the most common type of Parkinsonism. Parkinson’s disease is caused by the death or impairment of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which controls movement. As these brain cells become impaired, they lose their ability to produce an important chemical called dopamine. 

An estimated 1 to 1.5 million Americans currently have Parkinson’s disease and approximately 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The condition usually develops after the age of 55, but sometimes strikes people in their 30’s and 40’s. It affects both men and women and is one of the most common nervous system disorders of the elderly.

Signs & Symptoms

The main motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are collectively called Parkinsonism, and they are:

  • Tremor at rest
  • Stiffness
  • Slowing of movement, also called bradykinesia
  • Postural instability

These symptoms may be mild at first and may affect one or both sides of the body.

In later stages of Parkinson’s disease, non-motor symptoms develop. These non-motor symptoms include:

  • Autonomic dysfunctions such as low blood pressure when getting up, sweating, drooling and lack of body temperature control.
  • Cognitive symptoms such as difficulty with planning and abstract thinking, fluctuations in attention and slowed cognitive speed.
  • Behavioral symptoms such as mood alterations, depression, apathy and anxiety.

PD can impair other body functions such as sleep, vision and digestion.