With April being National Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, it’s important to understand what exactly Parkinson’s is and how it can impact someone’s life. Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. The symptoms that people experience can take years to develop, and they live for many years with the disease. The cause is unknown, and although there is not currently a cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms.

Parkinson’s involves the breakdown and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. PD primarily affects neurons in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As PD progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control their movements, body and emotions normally.

The saying is that if you’ve met one person with Parkinson’s disease, you’ve met one person with Parkinson’s disease. In other words- it presents differently for everyone and the symptoms do vary from person to person. The most commonly known motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include the following.

  • tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • bradykinesia or slowness of movement
  • rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • postural instability or impaired balance and coordination

PD also has non-motor symptoms can include anxiety, depression, mood swings, dementia, constipation, pain, sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing, excessive sweating, sleep disturbances, weight loss and more.

To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, visit the National Parkinson Foundation website. You can also find some great advice for caregivers and loved ones on the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s caregiving page of their site.




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