What is parkinson's disease?
What is Parkinson's?
Parkinson's is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.
The three main symptoms of Parkinson's are:
involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor)
stiff and inflexible muscles
A person with Parkinson's can also experience a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms, including:
depression and anxiety
balance problems – this may increase the chance of a fall
loss of sense of smell (anosmis)
problems sleeping (insomnia)
See your GP if you're concerned that you may have symptoms of Parkinson's.
Your GP will ask about the problems you're experiencing and may refer you to a specialist for further tests.
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Causes of Parkinson's
Parkinson's is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body. A reduction in dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson's.
Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.
It's thought around 1 in 500 people are affected by Parkinson's, which means there are an estimated 127,000 people in the UK with the condition.
Most people with Parkinson's start to develop symptoms when they're over 50, although around 1 in 20 people with the condition first experience symptoms when they're under 40.
Men are slightly more likely to get Parkinson's than women.
Although there's currently no cure for Parkinson's, treatments are available to help reduce the main symptoms and maintain quality of life for as long as possible.
treatments like physiotherapy and occupational therapy
medication, and in some cases, brain surgery (Deep Brain Stimulation)
As the condition progresses, the symptoms of Parkinson's can get worse and it can become increasingly difficult to carry out everyday activities without assistance.
Many people respond well to treatment and only experience mild to moderate disability, whereas the minority may not respond as well and can, in time, become more severely disabled.
However, with advances in treatment, most people with Parkinson's now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.
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