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Parkinson's Disease

New Research Offers Hope for Better Diagnosis and Treatments

Fast Facts

  • As many as one million Americans live with Parkinson's disease (PD), which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year, and this number does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected.
  • An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with PD.
  • Incidence of PD increases with age, but an estimated five to 10 percent of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50.
  • Men are one and a half times more likely to have PD than women.

Source: Parkinson's Disease Foundation

Parkinson's disease (PD) belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders. It happens when nerve cells in the brain don't produce enough of a brain chemical called dopamine.

The primary symptoms of PD are:

  • tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • bradykinesia, or slowness of movement
  • postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination

As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks.

PD usually affects people over the age of 60. Early symptoms of PD are subtle and occur gradually. In some people the disease progresses more quickly than in others. As the disease progresses, the shaking, or tremor, that affects the majority of people with PD may begin to interfere with daily activities.

Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions.

The disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately. There are currently no blood or laboratory tests that have proved to help in diagnosing sporadic PD. Therefore, the diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination. Doctors may sometimes request brain scans or laboratory tests in order to rule out other diseases.

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New Research Offers Hope for Better Diagnosis and Treatments / Symptoms and Treatment / Research

Winter 2016 Issue: Volume 10 Number 4 Page 24