Parkinson’s disease, PD, or simply Parkinson’s, is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects dopaminergic neurons in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Parkinson’s develops very slowly, often over many years, with the range and severity of symptoms often varying greatly from one individual to the next. Individuals with Parkinson’s experience at least one of the following key motor symptoms: slow movement (also known as bradykinesia), muscle stiffness (also known as rigidity), tremor, impaired balance and walking difficulties.
In addition to the motor symptoms mentioned above, Parkinson’s may cause a wide range of non-motor symptoms, such as mood changes, problems with attention and memory, trouble sleeping, constipation, loss of sense of smell, and pain. Because of the wide spectrum of symptoms, only a medical doctor with expertise in movement disorders can determine whether you have Parkinson’s and even then, the strongest diagnosis that can be given is clinically probable Parkinson’s.
Scientists do not know what exactly causes Parkinson’s and there is no cure for the condition, nor are current treatment options able to halt the progression of the disease. However, a range of effective therapies can be used to manage symptoms and improve an individual's quality of life. Medications are the first line of treatment; surgical interventions, such as deep brain stimulation, may be considered if symptoms cannot be controlled effectively with medication alone. Lifestyle changes, including exercise, relaxation, and healthy nutrition can also greatly improve all aspects of wellness and health.