Parkinsons Disease:
Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

By M. Chris Wolf, PH.D.

Parkinsons disease is a neurological disorder caused by a deficit of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain and primarily affects movement. This disease is most common in men and symptoms tend to begin after age 50; although, there are cases where it is diagnosed in younger adults. This is a chronic progressive disease, though the course of Parkinson's disease varies in severity and the timeline of the progression of symptoms.

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There are some promising areas of research in finding the causes of Parkinsons disease and possible cures. Scientists have identified some genetic markers and links to this disease. Experiments involving stem cell transplantation have shown promise in alleviating the motor symptoms of the disorder, but this research is still ongoing and has not been tested successfully in humans as of yet.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease?

The onset of Parkinsons disease is gradual and subtle. There is no diagnostic test for this disorder; a diagnosis is made based upon the results of a thorough and comprehensive medical history and neurological examination. The physician might also order brain scans and/or laboratory tests to rule out other disorder and disease processes.

The primary symptoms are classified in the following clusters:

* Tremors of hands, arms, legs and feet;

* Balance and coordination impairment;

* Slowness of movement;

* Stiffness of arms and legs.

Other symptoms that might occur with Parkinson's disease include depression, anxiety and other emotional issues; problems with chewing, swallowing and talking; and incontinence.

What treatments are available for Parkinson's disease?

There are a number of medications used to treat the symptoms of this disorder. Levadopa, the chemical predecessor of dopamine, is often prescribed along with carbidopa to treat slowness in movements and muscle rigidity.Anticholinergic medications are used to treat muscle tremors. Other medications that are prescribed because they mimic the neurotransmitter dopamine include bromocriptine, pramipexole; and ropinole.

In the event medication is not effective in managing involuntary movements, tremors and/or issues with gait, a surgical intervention called Deep Brain Stimulation might be recommended by the treating physician. This surgery involves placing electrodes deep into the brain; these electrodes are connected to a device that generates small electrical impulses. Studies show this intervention provides some symptomatic relief, but this intervention does not cure Parkinson's disease.

While there is a great deal of variability in the presentation and course of symptoms of Parkinson's disease, there are several treatment options available to lessen their effect on daily functioning. There are also numerous support groups for caregivers of people diagnosed with this disorder.

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National Institute of Health. (2011, August 29). Parkinson's Disease. Retrieved August 29, 2011, from National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke :

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For more information about this topic consider these resources:

Delay the Disease -Exercise and Parkinson's Disease [Spiral-Bound]David Zid (Author), Jackie Russell (Editor), RN (Editor), BSN (Editor), CNOR (Editor), Photography - Joanne Adams (Illustrator), BFA (Illustrator), CMI (Illustrator)

Parkinson's Disease For Dummies by Michele Tagliati,Gary Guten and Jo Horne

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