What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. Parkinson’s disease is both chronic, meaning it lasts for a long time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. It is not contagious.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s belongs to a group of conditions called movement disorders. The four main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:
- tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
- bradykinesia, or slowness of movement
- postural instability, or impaired balance.
Other symptoms include depression, emotional changes, difficulty swallowing, speech changes, urinary problems, sleep problems, and dementia and other cognitive problems.
What causes Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells, or neurons, in an area of the brain that controls movement die or become impaired. Normally, these neurons produce an important brain chemical known as dopamine, but once the neurons die or become impaired, they produce less dopamine. It is this shortage of dopamine that causes the movement problems of people with Parkinson’s.
How does Parkinson’s progress?
Parkinson’s disease does not affect everyone the same way. Symptoms of the disorder and the rate of progression differ among people with the disease. Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are subtle and occur gradually. For example, affected people may feel mild tremors or have difficulty getting out of a chair. They may notice that they speak too softly or that their handwriting is slow and looks cramped or small. This very early period may last a long time before the more classic and obvious symptoms appear.