About Parkinson's Disease

Overview

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What is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease occurs when nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine become damaged or die. Dopamine is crucial for coordinated muscle and movement control.

The decline in dopamine levels begins to cause difficulties with movement, including tremor, slowness of movement, stiffness, and loss of balance.

Parkinson's disease affects both men and women and occurs more often during adulthood. The incidence increases with age, yet as many as 40% of patients may exhibit symptoms before the age of 50. The disease progression is slow and gradual. Approximately one million Americans currently have Parkinson's disease, making it the second most frequent degenerative brain disorder in the United States, after Alzheimer's disease.

Diagnosis

There is no definitive test for Parkinson's disease so we rely on reviewing your medical history and a neurological examination in order to make a diagnosis.

Causes and Prevention

Currently, we don't know what causes Parkinson's disease to develop. In some patients, genetics, exposure to certain chemicals, and trauma may play a role in triggering this disease.

Many research studies are focused on finding the cause of Parkinson's disease in order to find ways to delay symptoms or even cure this condition.

The disease is usually treated with medications - levodopa and dopamine agonists - that are designed to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Levodopa is converted into dopamine; dopamine agonists mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain.