WHAT IS PARKINSON'S DISEASE?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder in which there is a gradual loss of brain cells that make and store dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain, known as a neurotransmitter, which sends messages that control movement. As Parkinson’s disease progresses, more dopamine neurons in the brain are lost.

The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are movement-related, and include: resting tremor, rigidity, and slowness of movement. However, many patients also experience non-movement-related symptoms such as cognitive impairment, mood changes, constipation and blood pressure problems.

The causes of Parkinson’s disease remain unknown, although researchers believe the disease may be brought on by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Available treatments help to reduce some of the symptoms but there is currently no treatment that can slow or stop the disease from progressing over time. Much research is ongoing to identify strategies for improving treatment of Parkinson’s disease in the future.

Researchers estimate that one million people in the United States, and four to six million people worldwide, are living with Parkinson’s. The average age of onset is 60 years old — though some are diagnosed at age 40 or even younger. As our population ages, the number of people with Parkinson’s is expected to grow.

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