- Parkinson’s disease is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder that causes tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; rigidity of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement; and impaired balance and coordination.
- Every nine minutes someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
- Although most will be around 60 years old at diagnosis, 15% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s will be under the age of 50, with some as young as their teens.
- More Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease than with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) combined.
- Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.
- Though Parkinson’s remains incurable, there are medications and surgical procedures that can help alleviate some of the symptoms. Exercise is a key factor in the fight against PD.
- The tulip is the international symbol of Parkinson’s disease. The flower’s symmetrically divided petals are symbolic of the two sides of the brain. The bright colors represent hope and strength.
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Parkinsonism is a general term that describes neurological degeneration in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Loss of nerve cells in this area causes non-production of dopamine, which is the brain chemical responsible for movement. The most common form of Parkinsonism is Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by tremors, especially of fingers and hand, rigidity of muscles, slowness of movements and speech, and a masklike face.
The most recent estimate of people in the U.S. with Parkinsonism is around 1 million. It affects both men and women and crosses all ethnic lines. Originally thought of as a disease of the elderly, the average age of onset is now considered to be 55. Beginning in the late 1960’s with the introduction of levodopa, many medications have been developed to treat the symptoms of the disease. Deep Brain Stimulation surgery is a possible treatment for carefully selected people. Nevertheless, the disease continues to progress in spite of treatments.
Although the disease was first identified in 1817 by Dr. James Parkinson, the cause of PD is still unknown. Medical experts believe that only a small percentage of cases are inherited (“familial Parkinson’s”). The best guess so far is that a combination of environmental and genetic factors is the culprit in the majority of “classic” Parkinson cases. Extensive research is being conducted all over the world, with hopes for a cure in the coming years.