Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years. See your GP if you're concerned that you may have symptoms of Parkinson's disease, see below.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease usually develop gradually and are mild at first.

The three main symptoms of Parkinson's disease are:

  • involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor) 
  • slow movement
  • stiff and inflexible muscles

A person with Parkinson's disease can also experience a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms, including:

When to see your GP

See your GP if you're concerned that you may have symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Your GP will ask about the problems you're experiencing and may refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Causes of Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in a part of the brain. This leads to a reduced amount of the chemical dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body. Having a reduced level of dopamine in the brain is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.

Who's affected

It's thought around 1 in 500 people are affected by Parkinson's disease.

Most people with Parkinson's start to develop symptoms when they're over 50. Around 1 in 20 people with the condition first develop symptoms when they're under 40.

Men are slightly more likely to get Parkinson's disease than women.

Treating Parkinson's disease

There's currently no cure for Parkinson's disease. Treatments are available to help reduce the main symptoms and maintain quality of life for as long as possible.

These include:

  • supportive treatments – such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy
  • medication
  • in some cases, brain surgery

You may not need any treatment during the early stages of Parkinson's disease, as symptoms are usually mild. You may need regular appointments with your specialist so your condition can be monitored.

Outlook

As the condition progresses, the symptoms of Parkinson's disease can get worse. It can become increasingly difficult to carry out everyday activities without help.

Many people respond well to treatment and only experience mild to moderate disability. Some people may not respond as well and can, in time, become more severely disabled.

Parkinson's disease doesn't directly cause people to die. But the condition can place great strain on the body, and can make some people more vulnerable to serious and life-threatening infections.

 With advances in treatment, most people with Parkinson's disease now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

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