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What is Parkinson's Disease?

Understand the Basics of PD

By

Updated June 27, 2014

What is Parkinson's Disease?
© 2001-2008 HAAP Media Ltd

Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder named after the British physician, James Parkinson, who first accurately described its symptoms in 1817. Its three major symptoms are tremor(trembling which usually starts in one hand), rigidity in the trunk or limbs and slowness of movement. It is a progressive disorder, meaning that it typically gets worse over the years. But new treatments are emerging for PD that promise to reduce the most disabling symptoms of the disease.

How Common Is Parkinson's Disease?

PD affects approximately one million people in the United States and Canada. Men are slightly more likely to get PD than women.

What Causes Parkinson's Disease?

PD is caused by a lack of the chemical messenger dopamine in the movement centers of the brain. Besides a lack of dopamine, PD can be aggravated by genetic factors, exposure to pesticides or industrial toxins and the process of aging itself.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Since dopamine normally controls muscle activity, PD primarily affects movement. The three major signs of PD are tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement. But there are other non-motor symptoms as well, such as problems with mood, sleep, thinking and speech.

How Is Parkinson's Disease Diagnosed?

There are no unequivocal tests for PD -- no blood or lab tests can definitively diagnose PD. It is diagnosed on the basis of the history of the symptoms and after a careful and detailed neurological examination of the patient. If your motor symptoms (tremors, rigidity and slow movements) get better after taking a trial of the drug levodopa, then it is more likely that you have PD.

Treatments for Parkinson's Disease

There is, at present, no cure for PD, but there are some very effective treatments including levodopa drug therapy, other drug therapies, physical therapy, and surgery. There are also new treatment options emerging every year.

Living With Parkinson's Disease

It is possible to live an active life with PD. If you take advantage of the best treatment options for you, maintain an exercise regimen as best you can, and create and use a support network you will increase your ability to remain independent and to live a pretty normal life. Remember you are not your disease. Learn as much as you can about PD and allow yourself to accept help from others when you need it. Check this website frequently for news on latest treatment options and tips on how to live well with PD.

Here are some tips on coping with:

Sources:

R. Pahwa and K.E. Lyons (Editors),Handbook of Parkinson’s Disease; 4th Edition, New York, Informa Healthcare Publishers, 2007.

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. About Parkinson's Disease. Accessed December 16, 2008. http://www.pdf.org/en/about_pd

W. J Wiener, L. M. Shulman, and A. E. Lang; Baltimore, MD. Parkinson’s Disease; A complete guide for patients and their families. 2nd Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press Health Book; 2007.

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