Advertisement

Parkinson’s Disease, Explained

Know the causes, symptoms and treatment of this nerve disorder.

Brain scans, MRI
1 / 5

Parkinson's disease, a chronic and progressive nerve disorder, affects as many as one million Americans, with 60,000 people diagnosed each year. You might have questions like: What is Parkinson’s disease? Who gets it, what are the symptoms, and is there a cure? Here’s what you need to know.

senior man, glasses, thinking
2 / 5
Who Is At Risk?

Age is one of the biggest risk factors for Parkinson's. The disease develops most often after age 60 and occurs more often in men than in women. Early-onset Parkinson's can strike people under age 50. In very rare cases, symptoms may even appear at age 20 or younger. 

man, field
3 / 5
Causes

The underlying cause of Parkinson’s disease is still unknown. Roughly 15% of people with Parkinson’s have a family history of the disease. Some research suggests that certain pesticides can increase the risk of developing the disease. And mounting evidence connects head injuries and concussions—especially knockout blows—to Parkinson's, with one study showing that they can more than double the risk. 

writing letter
4 / 5
Symptoms

Parkinson's disease has four hallmark symptoms: tremors, or shaking of the hands, arms, legs and face; stiffness; bradykinesia (slow movement); and poor balance. Symptoms usually start on one side of the body and progress to both sides. Other symptoms include dementia, dizziness when standing, incontinence, mood disorders, trouble sleeping and, surprisingly, a loss of the sense of smell.

granddaughter kissing grandfather
5 / 5
Treatment

Parkinson’s disease has no cure. Medications that either mimic or help the body produce the brain chemical dopamine can help manage problems with tremors, rigidity, balance and movement. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a widely used treatment that may help some people who develop certain symptoms, despite medication. Exercise, physical therapy and speech therapy can help people with Parkinson’s feel better and improve their quality of life.  

More On

What Causes Parkinson's Disease?

video

What Causes Parkinson's Disease?
Exact causes of Parkinson's disease are unclear, says Melissa Houser, MD, a neurologist at Scripps Health. She believes it could be a genetic predispo...
Can Depression be a Symptom of Parkinson’s Disease?

article

Can Depression be a Symptom of Parkinson’s Disease?
In addition to problems with movement, Parkinson’s disease is also associated with changes in mental health.
5 Health Risks Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

slideshow

5 Health Risks Linked to Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson's is connected to lung problems, depression, and more.
How Parkinson's disease affects the brain

video

How Parkinson's disease affects the brain
Biomedical engineer Sri Sarma, PhD, explains how brain waves and rhythms influence movement in people with Parkinson’s disease. Watch this video to le...
What Are Therapies for Parkinson's Disease?

video

What Are Therapies for Parkinson's Disease?
Some therapies for Parkinson's disease are pharmacological and some are homeopathic, but there is no medicinal cure for the condition. In this video, ...