What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder and a type of movement disorder. A person’s brain may stop producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls the movement. With less dopamine produced, the person’s ability to control their movement does as well.
Many people’s symptoms may take years to develop and may not appear in the same order or same degree as others. Parkinson’s disease may affect people in different ways. For some, the disease can progress slowly, while others can experience a faster progression.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms can include:
- Tremors or shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw or face
- Rigidity or stiffness of limbs or trunk
- Slowness of movements
- Difficulties with balance, speech, and coordination
- Poor sense of smell
- Cognitive impairment
Currently, the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. However, there are several risk factors that increase the development of the disease.
- Genetics – A small percentage of Parkinson’s disease cases are caused by genetics. However, data is showing more cases are caused by genetics than previously thought.
- Advancing age – This is the biggest risk factor, although there are cases of young adults developing the disease.
- Gender – Men are more likely to develop PD than women. This may be due to an increased exposure to other risk factors including head trauma.
- Environmental roles – Along with the genetic factor, many scientists believe exposure to one or more environmental toxins could also be the cause of Parkinson’s disease.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease but medications may be available to treat the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. In some cases, surgery may be an option to treat some of the symptoms.
Interesting Parkinson’s Facts
According to the Parkinson’s disease Foundation:
- As many as one million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- About 10 percent have early-onset Parkinson’s that often begins before the age of 50.
- The average age of onset is about 60.
- Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, and this number does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected.
- An estimated 7 to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease.
- The incidence of Parkinson’s increases with age, but an estimated four percent of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50.
- Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.