Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease Overview

Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressive disorder of the brain characterized by muscular rigidity and tremors. It occurs when the cells are destroyed in certain parts of the brain stem. It is associated with the loss of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that affects mood and well-being. Parkinson’s disease can lead to difficulty with walking, movement and coordination.

There is no known cure and the exact cause of Parkinson s disease is unknown. Experts think that the disease is probably due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It can strike at any age, but it is almost always diagnosed after the age of 50.

Treatment advances are increasingly effective in alleviating symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease.

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder and the symptoms can be mild at first. But as it progresses, the complications of Parkinson’s disease can greatly impact the quality of daily life, leading to depression, which is extremely common.

Parkinson’s disease symptoms are progressive and get worse over time. They include:

  • Difficulty with speech
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of fine motor skills
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Slow movements
  • Stooped posture

Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis

To diagnose Parkinson’s disease, your doctor, a neurologist and specialist in brain and motor disorders, will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. He or she will be looking for the following:

  • Changes in your heart rate
  • Difficulty starting or finishing voluntary movements
  • Jerky, stiff movements or tremors
  • Loss of muscle tissue (muscle atrophy)

In addition, your doctor may order tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms and may give you carbidopa-levodopa, a Parkinson's disease medication. Significant improvement with this medication will often confirm your diagnosis of Parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

The neurologists at Aurora Health Care are highly experienced in treating Parkinson’s disease with medications, rehabilitation services, behavioral health, home care and complementary medicine.

It is important to note that your experience with Parkinson’s may be different from someone else’s and your doctor will customize a treatment plan for you.  Your personalized treatment may include:

  • Medication – Your doctor will help you find the right combination of medications to manage your physical and psychological symptoms.
  • Lifestyle modifications – Not everyone with Parkinson’s disease needs medication and can manage the symptoms by making lifestyle changes including eating right, exercise and relaxation therapies. Your doctor will help you explore the changes that can help you minimize your symptoms.
  • Rehabilitation – Physical, occupational and speech therapists can help you counter the physical complications associated with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Surgical treatment is sometimes recommended to control tremors and rigidity if your symptoms do not respond to medication and lifestyle changes. Aurora neurosurgeons are skilled at a surgical technique called deep brain stimulation (DBS), in which your neurosurgeon implants a hair-thin electrode in your brain that provides continuous electrical stimulation to the parts of your brain that control body movement.

The Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute (ANII) brings together world-class physicians and cutting-edge technology. Learn more about ANII.