Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that affects movement. The condition develops gradually and commonly causes slow, stiff movements. Symptoms and progression vary from patient to patient. Parkinson disease cannot be cured, but treatment may delay or lessen its signs and symptoms. Neurologic disorders that cause progressive deterioration characterized by involuntary tremors, muscle rigidity, and bradykinesia. One of the most common crippling diseases in the United States.

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At first, Parkinson disease often causes only mild symptoms. As it gets worse, the symptoms can affect a person's ability to work or do everyday activities. When it becomes even more severe, people with the disease sometimes need help taking care of themselves.

Parkinson disease can make people:

  • Shake (doctors call this "tremor")
  • Move slowly
  • Become stiff or rigid
  • Lose their balance or have a hard time walking

Parkinson disease can also make some people:

  • Lose the ability to think clearly
  • At times, lose touch with reality or see things that aren't there (these are called "hallucinations")
  • Feel depressed, anxious, or less interested in everyday life
  • Have problems with sleep, such as insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep) and daytime sleepiness
  • Feel tired
  • Lose the ability to smell

The disease can even cause problems such as constipation, sweating, trouble urinating, trouble swallowing, and sexual problems. Some people with Parkinson disease get something called "orthostatic hypotension." This is the medical term for a sudden drop in blood pressure that happens when a person stands up. This drop in blood pressure can make the person feel dizzy or lightheaded, or even pass out.

No, there is no test. But doctors can usually tell if a person has Parkinson disease based on his or her symptoms. Sometimes doctors use tests to make sure that the symptoms are not caused by something else.

There are several medicines that can improve the symptoms of Parkinson disease. Researchers are also studying drugs that might help keep Parkinson disease from getting worse. But for now, no treatment can cure the disease.

The medicines used to treat Parkinson disease symptoms can sometimes cause serious side effects. For this reason, people often start taking them only after their symptoms start to really bother them.

If you are thinking about treatment, ask your doctor or nurse to help you understand the risks and benefits of the medicines you might take. Here are some questions to ask your doctor that might help you decide what to do about treatment:

  • Which medicines would you suggest I take?
  • What are their side effects?
  • How much are my symptoms likely to improve with each medicine?
  • What happens if I do not take the medicine?

People with Parkinson disease that does not improve with other treatments can sometimes get a treatment called "deep brain stimulation" (also called "DBS"). People who get DBS must first have surgery to place wires into a part of the brain that helps control muscle movement. The wires are attached to a device that gets implanted under the skin, usually near the collarbone. It sends electrical signals to the brain to reduce abnormal movement.

Yes. You can:

  • Exercise or do physical therapy, so that your body is less affected by stiffness and other symptoms.
  • Join social support groups, where you can talk to other people who understand your situation.
  • Make your home safer, so that you are less likely to fall (figure 1). For example, get rid of loose rugs and clutter, and make sure all electrical cords are neatly tucked away.
  • If you still drive, have yourself tested to make sure it is safe for you to keep driving.

The doctor may give drugs to try to reverse the effects of the opioids. Other care may also be given to help keep heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure normal.