According to the National Parkinson Foundation, Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressing brain disorder caused by damaged dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. Dopamine regulates muscle movement. However, when more than 60 percent of those dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson’s appear.
The earliest symptoms, such as sleeping disorders, may appear years in advance of the telling jerky motor movements associated with the disorder.
After a 2019 study, The National Parkinson Foundation stated that more than 80,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed each year in the United States. Worldwide, more than four million people have the disease.
The disease most often appears after 50 in men and women. Young-onset Parkinson’s is rare.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are the most recognizable symptoms associated with the disorder.
- Shaking while at rest
- Moving slowly
- Stiffness in the arms, legs and torso
- Difficulty balancing
However, the major motor symptoms often do not appear for years after the initial, non-motor symptoms are diagnosed, such as sleeping disorders, constipation and hallucinations or psychosis.
Secondary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include:
- Small, cramped handwriting
- Reduced arm swing and a slight foot drag on the affected side
- Loss of facial expressions
- Muffled speech
- Decreased ability in automatic reflexes, such as to blink or to swallow
Another symptom associated with Parkinson’s disease is known as freezing, which refers to the feeling of being stuck in place when attempting to walk.
If Parkinson’s disease is not treated, the symptoms will continue to progress until an individual is completely disabled. A person with Parkinson’s disease may have an early death with or without treatment.
Parkinson’s Disease Causes
There is no known cause for Parkinson’s disease, but genetics and environmental triggers, such as environmental toxins, may factor in the disorder’s appearance.
Parkinson’s Disease Treatment
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Treatment, such as medication and surgery, focuses on treating the symptoms. Medications are used to increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, which can offset the motor symptoms associated with the disorder. Surgery to affect brain tissue may also be used to alleviate some of Parkinson’s motor symptoms.
Assistive devices, such as special utensils, wheelchairs, bed lifts, shower chairs and wall bars might eventually be required by persons with Parkinson’s disease.
Other treatment options include getting enough rest and physical exercise, physical therapy and speech therapy.
Parkinson’s Disease Prevention
There are no known preventive measures to take to prevent Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s Disease Resources
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