How does Parkinson's disease affect the body?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Your movements are coordinated by a section of the brain called the basal ganglia. In this section, there are nerve cells that produce a chemical called dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters pass from cell to cell, sending signals through the body. In people with Parkinson's disease, the nerve cells that produce dopamine don't work properly and less dopamine is produced. The basal ganglia doesn't have enough dopamine to send clear signals throughout the nerves, so movement isn't communicated as clearly. As a result, coordination and mobility become less smooth.

Dr. Nader Pouratian, MD

Parkinson’s disease is considered a movement disorder. Specifically, Parkinson’s disease can result in a rest tremor (a tremor that usually goes away with movement), stiffness and slowness of movement. It is important to know, however, that not all patients have all of these symptoms. Later in disease, after having taken medications for a period of time, patients can develop additional movement problems including excess uncontrollable movements when taking medications (called dyskinesias) and painful turning and bending of the limbs (dystonia). Other movement problems that develop are difficulty with walking and balance. Although considered a movement disorder, Parkinson’s disease also affects the body in other ways including loss of smell, vivid dreams, depression and other secondary symptoms.

In Parkinson’s disease, the body can't move the way it should. The brain cells that make dopamine gradually stop working, so not enough dopamine is made. Without dopamine, the instructions telling the body how to move can’t get delivered. Lack of dopamine means lots of problems for the body. Without instructions to the muscles, the body can’t move like it is supposed to.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.