What is Parkinson's?

parkinsonsgraphic1Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder caused by the loss of specific groups of nerve cells in the brain. Parkinson's disease affects people of all ages, but becomes increasingly common as people get older. More than a million people in the United States have the disease, including 1 out of every 100 people over the age of 60. Many symptoms of PD - shaking, slowness, stiffness, anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping - remain mild and treatable for many years. No two people with PD have exactly the same symptoms or responses to treatment.

Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters produce signals that regulate muscle movement throughout the body. In people with PD, specific brain cells stop working properly, including those that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. As levels of dopamine fall, patients have increasing difficulty controlling their movements. Medications that replace dopamine and correct other chemical imbalances help to control the symptoms of PD. A number of different genes for PD have been identified, but environmental factors are also believed to influence risk.

In the last 30 years, breakthroughs have been made in the management of Parkinson's disease. Common treatments such as medications, deep brain stimulation surgery, rehabilitation programs, and clinical research trials have significantly relieved patient symptoms, therefore, improving quality of life. Currently researchers feel that a cure for Parkinson's is about 10 years away. Learn more about Parkinson's by visiting Maryland's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorder Center's website. If you are searching for a support group, please click here. Often, Caregivers are looking for more information and support. The Family CareGiver Alliance provides a good source of information for Parkinsonians Care Partners.

Facts about Parkinson's Disease:

  • One out of every 100 people live with Parkinson's disease, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehirg's disease.

  • Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease each year, and this number does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected.

  • Incidence of Parkinson's increases with age, but an estimated five percent of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50.

  • Approximately four million people worldwide are estimated to be living with Parkinson's disease.

  • Parkinson's Disease does not present the same way in everyone -- no two people have the exact same experience with Parkinson's. Your disease is unique to you. 

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