Conditions InDepth: Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a gradually progressive degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called movement disorders. The most characteristic problems caused by Parkinson’s disease include shaking, tremor at rest, balance problems, stiffness, and slowness of movement.

The Central Nervous System

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Parkinson’s disease occurs when an area of the brain, called the substantia nigra, is slowly destroyed. This destruction occurs due to genetic, environmental, or a combination of both causes. The end result is a deprivation in the brain of an important neurochemical, called dopamine. Dopamine helps regulate movement, and its loss leads to increased tone, rigidity, and slowness of movement. Lack of dopamine results in the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year. At any given time, about 400,000 people in the United States are struggling with this condition.

What are the risk factors for Parkinson’s disease?
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed?
What are the treatments for Parkinson’s disease?
Are there screening tests for Parkinson’s disease?
What can I do to reduce my risk of Parkinson's disease?
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
What is it like to live with Parkinson’s disease?
Where can I get more information about Parkinson’s disease?


American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: .

Conn’s Current Therapy 2002. 54th edition. WB Saunders Company; 2002.

Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 16th ed. McGraw-Hill; 2005.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: .

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website. Available at: .

Rowland LP. Merritt's Neurology. Books@Ovid, Lipincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.

Last reviewed April 2007 by Roshni N. Patel, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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