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Parkinson's Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prognosis

Updated on February 7, 2013
Tremors | Source
Shuffling Gait
Shuffling Gait | Source
Hunched shoulders
Hunched shoulders | Source
Decreased Brain Activity
Decreased Brain Activity | Source

Joan Whetzel

Not long ago, Michael J. Fox made public his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. This debilitating disease is taking its toll on his health as it does all those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease. For those who have a loved one recently diagnosed with this disease, it helps to find out all you can about the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prognosis.

What Is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's diseases affects gross motor skills due to a degenerative problem involving a specific set of brain cells. Normally the affected nerve cells produce dopamine, a brain chemical responsible for sending signals the area of the brain regulates movement, allowing muscles to move however and whenever you want. Parkinson’s causes these cells to stop working, to stop producing dopamine. Without the dopamine, the person with Parkinson’s begins to suffer a progressive decline in the ease of movement.

Causes of Parkinson's Disease

The specific causes of Parkinson’s are unknown at this down, though research is ongoing. Suspected causes are aging, environmental toxins, head trauma, illness, and genetics. Men are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to suffer from Parkinson’s than women.

Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

The primary symptoms Parkinson’s disease include: tremors of the hands, arms, or legs; stiff muscles; slow shuffling movement, difficulty with walking and balance. The tremors are usually the first sign that something is wrong. Another significant sign of Parkinson’s is what is referred to as the Parkinson’s gait, which appears as a stooped, shuffling gait.

Most people suffering from Parkinson’s exhibit tremors, though not all have this symptom. As the disease progresses, it begins affecting muscles throughout the body and begin causing difficulty with swallowing and with constipation. Secondary symptoms of the disease includes a fixed expression, speech problems, anxiety, confusion,

Most people begin exhibiting symptoms between the ages of 50 and 60, though in some people it occurs later. A few people, like Michael J. Fox, suffer early onset Parkinson’s.

Treatments for Parkinson's Disease

Currently, Parkinson’s Disease cannot be cured, but there are medications that can treat the symptoms and make living with the disease a bit easier. Mild symptoms are usually not treated, however. Medications are withheld until symptoms begin to interfere with daily life and can be adjusted as symptoms worsen.

The best medication for the job is called L-dopa (or Levadopa), bromocriptine, pramipexole, ropinirole, or dopamine, though there may be side effects with long-term high doses. Another treatment called deep brain stimulations works well for some patients. Deep brain stimulation involves wires surgically inserted into the brain. These electrical leads are attached to a small device that sends electrical signals to the affected areas of the brain, helping them function better. Stem cell therapy may also be considered. If this is something you and your affected family member might consider, talk to your physician.

At home therapies can help Parkinson’s patients maintain as independent a life as possible. These include a well balanced diet, plenty of rest, using one’s energy in the wisest, shrewdest ways possible, and daily exercise, as well as physical and occupational therapy.

Prognosis for Parkinson's Disease Sufferers

Parkinson’s is a long-term, slowly progressive disease. There are no cures; only treatments. Since it progresses so slowly, most people can continue working for quite a while after being diagnosis. Slow progression also allows time for sufferers to learn to adapt to their symptoms and increasing limited mobility. Parkinson’s Disease also shorten life expectancy.


Wikipedia. Parkinson's Disease.

WebMD. Parkinson's Disease.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Parkinson's Disease.

Medicine Net. Parkinson's Disease.

Wikipedia. The Hoehn and Yahr Scale.


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    • stephanieb27 profile image

      stephanieb27 4 years ago from United States

      Informative hub! My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's a few years back and frequently deals with the hand tremors.