What is Parkinson's disease?
Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder (relating to the nervous system) that affects the brain. It is progressive (gradually gets worse over time), and it happens when the cells that produce the brain chemical, dopamine, start to die off. Dopamine plays a key role in a number of our daily functions including movement, balance, memory, and cognition. After enough of these dopamine-producing cells die, the affected person starts to lose the ability to perform many of these functions.
Symptoms of Parkinson's
Parkinson's disease has many different symptoms but the four main symptoms are tremors, rigidity (stiffness), bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and postural instability (imbalance).
Some additional symptoms are listed below but it is important to note that everyone's experience with Parkinson's symptoms is different, both in terms of the number of symptoms experienced and the impact of these symptoms.
Other symptoms include apathy (reduced interest in doing things), depression, anxiety, pain, micrographia (when your handwriting gets smaller), reduced sense of smell, sleep problems, orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing), drooling, swallowing problems, hypomimia (reduced facial expression), trouble remembering things and cognitive difficulties.
As Parkinson's progresses, some people also experience hallucinations and/or develop dementia.
What causes Parkinson's?
While it is clearly understood that in Parkinson's disease, the nerve cells that produce dopamine become damaged or die; it remains unclear why this degeneration occurs in the first place. However, as scientists continue to research this area, they are seeing a link between both genetic (gene mutations) and environmental factors (like exposure to toxic chemicals), and the development of Parkinson's.
Who is likely to
The biggest risk factor for developing Parkinson's is age. Most of the people who get it are aged 60 or over, however anyone, male or female, including younger people, can develop Parkinson's.