Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson or Parkinson's disease is a progressive condition which affects the parts of the brain responsible for controlling movement and coordination. This condition causes these areas to be slowly destroyed. Parkinson disease is one of the most common neurological disorders, though the exact cause is not known. People older than 60 years of age are most commonly affected. The typical symptoms are a shaking tremor, stiff muscles and slowed movements. A diagnosis of Parkinson disease can be made based on the symptoms and physical examination, though some follow-up tests are usually done to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment helps to reduce symptoms and maintain quality of life. Parkinson disease will slowly get worse over time, and in some cases, can cause severe movement problems and dementia.
Parkinson's disease is usually caused by loss of nerve cells in the parts of the brain which are responsible for controlling smooth movements and coordination. The cause of Parkinson disease is not known. Parkinson disease is one of the most common neurological disorder of older adults. People older than 60 years of age are most commonly affected, though it sometimes affects people as young as 40. Men are more likely than women to develop this condition. People who have a family member with Parkinson disease or who have other medical conditions affecting their brain are more likely to develop Parkinson disease. Some medications can also cause symptoms similar to Parkinson disease.
The most common symptoms of Parkinson disease are a shaking tremor of the hands or other parts, stiff muscles and a slowing of movements. Later symptoms may include problems with balance and walking, a reduction in facial expression, a low mood, memory loss, and difficulty sleeping.
The diagnosis is often made based on the symptoms and physical examination. A CT scan or MRI scan of the head may be done to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes for the symptoms. A trial of the medication used to treat Parkinson disease, called levodopa, may be the final step in making the diagnosis.
Treatment aims to control symptoms and remain active. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy are very helpful in helping people with this condition stay active and strong for as long as possible. There are several types of medication used to manage Parkinson disease, and work to reduce the tremor and muscle stiffness and make movements more fluid. Some people find that a technique called deep brain stimulation, where small electric nodes are placed in the brain to help control brain activity, causes a reduction in their symptoms. Emotional support is important for people who have received a diagnosis of Parkinson disease, and individual counseling or joining a support group may be helpful.