WHAT IS PARKINSON'S DISEASE? · Parkinson's Resource Organization

WHAT IS PARKINSON'S DISEASE?

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WHAT IS PARKINSON'S DISEASE?

Parkinson's disease belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremor or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Parkinson’s affects people of all ages.  Early symptoms of Parkinson’s are subtle and occur gradually.  In some people, the disease progresses more quickly than in others.  As the disease progresses, the shaking, or tremor, which affects the majority of people with Parkinson’s may begin to interfere with daily activities.  Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions.  There are currently no blood or laboratory tests that have been proven to help in diagnosing sporadic PD.  Therefore the diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination.  The disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately.   Doctors may sometimes request brain scans or laboratory tests in order to rule out other diseases.

                Parkinson’s disease is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time.  Although some people become severely disabled, others experience only minor motor disruptions. Tremor is the major symptom for some individuals, while for others, tremor is only a minor complaint, and other symptoms are more troublesome.  It is currently not possible to predict which symptoms will affect an individual, and the intensity of the symptoms also varies from person to person.

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Updated: August 16, 2017