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Conditions InDepth: Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a gradually progressive degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called movement disorders. There are four characteristic problems caused by Parkinson’s disease, including tremor at rest, balance problems, stiffness, and slowness of movement.
Parkinson’s disease occurs when areas of the brain, including an area called the substantia nigra, is slowly destroyed. The exact reason for this destruction is not completely known. In some patients, it may be due to genetic, environmental, or a combination of both causes. The end result is a deprivation in the brain of an important neurochemical, called dopamine. Dopamine helps regulate movement, and its loss leads to increased tone, rigidity, and slowness of movement. Lack of dopamine results in the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year. Ninety-five percent of those diagnosed are over 50 years old. At any given time, about 500,000 people, or one percent of those over age 50 in the United States are struggling with this condition.
• What are the risk factors for Parkinson’s disease? • What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease? • How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed? • What are the treatments for Parkinson’s disease? • Are there screening tests for Parkinson’s disease? • What can I do to reduce my risk of Parkinson's disease? • What questions should I ask my doctor? • What is it like to live with Parkinson’s disease? • Where can I get more information about Parkinson’s disease?
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Rimas Lukas, MD
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