Parkinsons Disease

Parkinson's Disease: An Overview Image

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive and chronic disorder of the nervous system.

Parkinson’s (PD) results from the degeneration of dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra — the “movement control center” of the brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that participates in sending signals from the brain to the muscles that control motor movements, balance, muscle co-ordination, speech and emotional behavior. A lack of dopamine in the brain means that part of the vital communication link between brain and body is damaged.

Characteristic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors in the hands, legs, arms and face. Rigidity of limbs and torso, poor balance and co-ordination, impaired speech and dementia are also symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson Disease: Origins

Parkinson’s disease is named after the British doctor, James Parkinson, who first outlined the disease in “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy,” published in 1817. Records of the disease, however, date back to the 5th century BC.

Parkinson’s Disease: Facts and Figures

  • The two main types of Parkinson’s disease are: early-onset, before the age of fifty (five to ten percent of all cases); and late-onset, affecting the fifty-plus age group.
  • In the US, about one million people have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, with about fifty thousand new diagnoses made each year.
  • Parkinson’s disease affects men and women about equally.
  • The cause or causes of Parkinson’s disease are unclear, although environmental and genetic links have been identified.

Although no cure for Parkinson’s disease is currently available, recent studies, notably in the area of stem cell research, point to a better understanding of the bio-mechanics of this debilitating disease.