Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive movement disorder. PD is characterized by:
Part of the Brain Affected by PD—Yellow Section
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PD is caused by a loss of certain nerve cells in the brain. The loss of these cells causes a decrease in the amount of a brain chemical called dopamine. Low dopamine levels cause PD symptoms.
The brain cells may be lost because of genetic defects, the environment, or some combination of the two. A small amount of people with PD have an early-onset form. This type is caused by an inherited gene defect.
PD is more common in men and in people aged 50 years and older. Other factors that increase your chance of PD include:
PD is a progressive disease. Symptoms begin mildly and worsen over time.
PD may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. There are no tests to definitively diagnose PD. The doctor will ask many questions. This will help to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
Tests to rule out other conditions may include:
Imaging tests evaluate internal bodily structures. This can be done with:
Currently, there are no treatments to cure PD. There are also no proven treatments to slow or stop its progression. Some medications may help to improve symptoms. Over time, the side effects of the medication may become troublesome. The medications may also lose their effectiveness.
Medications that may be used to treat PD include:
Depression or hallucinations may also occur with PD and its treatment. Medications may be prescribed to attempt to treat these conditions. The drugs may include:
Hip fractures are common in those with PD. Bisphosphonates are medications that may help reduce this risk.
Constipation, drooling, and lightheadedness when standing are common and may improve with medications or other treatments.
Different brain operations are available, and many more are being researched including:
Therapy can improve muscle tone, strength, and balance. It includes exercises and stretches. There is also evidence that tai chi may be beneficial.
Consider joining a support group with other people with PD. It will help to learn how others are learning to live with the challenges of PD.
National Parkinson Foundation
Parkinson's Disease Foundation
Parkinson Society Canada
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Last reviewed August 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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