Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is defined as a neurodegenerative brain disorder that affects movement first and induces a wide range of other signs and symptoms that affect a patient’s quality of life.

According to Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with this progressive brain disease. This number is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year. On a global level, around 10 million people are living with Parkinson’s disease. Read on to learn more about this neurodegenerative brain disorder.

Parkinson’s disease overview

Parkinson’s disease primarily affects dopaminergic (dopamine-producing) neurons in the substantia nigra area of the brain. You see, dopamine is produced in substantia nigra, and one of its many functions is to make smooth and coordinated muscle movements possible.

In persons with Parkinson’s disease, cells in substantia nigra start to die. As a result, dopamine levels drop. Symptoms of PD tend to appear when levels of dopamine decrease by 60% to 80%.

Parkinson’s disease is an incurable condition, but medications can help manage symptoms.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Signs and symptoms of PD may vary from one patient to another. In the early stages, the symptoms of this disease go unnoticed. In many cases, symptoms appear on one side of the body first and tend to be worse on that side later on. The disease develops gradually, doesn’t come out of the blue. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Tremors or shaking usually starting in hands or fingers
  • Impaired balance and posture
  • Bradykinesia (slowed movement), e.g., simple tasks become time-consuming and difficult to perform
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Loss of automatic movements
  • Difficulty to write, handwriting appears small
  • Speech changes such as speaking quickly, softly, monotone, hesitating before talking

Causes and risk factors

The exact cause of PD is unknown. But it could be down to genes and environmental triggers. You see, some specific genetic mutations could be behind PD, but they are uncommon. Additionally, exposure to some toxins may contribute to the development of this condition. But, the risk, in this case, is very small.

Common risk factors for PD include older age, family history of Parkinson’s disease, exposure to toxins, and being a male.

Diagnosis and treatment

At this point, there is no specific diagnostic test for PD. A doctor diagnoses Parkinson’s disease based on medical history, symptoms reported by a patient, and physical/neurological examination.

As mentioned above, PD doesn’t have a cure. The treatment focuses on controlling symptoms. It involves:

  • Medications to manage problems with walking, tremors, and movement. They work by increasing or substituting dopamine
  • Surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulation to reduce symptoms of severe PD

Lifestyle modifications are also important for the management of PD. A healthy diet and exercise can aid the management of symptoms and improve muscle strength and balance.


Parkinson’s disease is a common neurodegenerative condition that is well-known for the tremors it causes. The disease is incurable, but various treatment options are available to manage symptoms. The exact cause of PD is still unknown, but environmental triggers and genetics could play a role.