Atlanta Center for Medical Research

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Atlanta Center for Medical Research Resource Blog

It’s estimated that about one million Americans have Parkison’s Disease. On top of that, about 60,000 new people are diagnosed with the disease every year. Some of the most famous people with Parkison’s include Muhamad Ali, George H. W. Bush, and Michael J. Fox.

But what is Parkison’s Disease and how does it affect those who have it? Keep reading below to find out.

What Is Parkison’s Disease?

Parkison’s disease is a medical condition that affects neurons in the brain. More specifically, it affects the dopamine-producing neurons in the area of the brain called the substantia nigra. What does this mean?

This disease makes the neurons in the brain slowly break down and die. This causes the impairment of movement and muscle use, creating problems with basic motions and daily tasks.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

The true cause of Parkison’s Disease is unknown. However, there are multiple details and risk factors that scientists and doctors believe play a role in who gets this disease:

  • Genes. Like many serious diseases, your genetics plays a huge role in Parkison’s Disease. Having a relative with the disease, an increase in certain substances in your brain (like Lewy bodies), and particular genetic mutations may all have a huge role in risk for Parkison’s Disease.
  • Sex. Unfortunately, males are more likely to have Parkison’s Disease than females.
  • Environment. It’s been shown that exposure to certain things in the environment can increase the risk of Parkison’s Disease. This list includes herbicides, pesticides, and other toxins.
  • Age. Parkison’s Disease tends to develop later in life. Those who are younger have less of a risk.

What Are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

At the start of this disease, very little symptoms may show. However, physical effects worsen as the disease progresses. Here are the biggest symptoms someone with Parkinson’s disease can expect:

  • Tremors. Usually, they begin in a certain limb, like the hand or fingers, and continue to build onto other body parts.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Slowed down movement and change in walking gait.
  • Decreased ability to do simple tasks, like opening mail and brushing teeth.
  • Changes in speech patterns, such as slurring or lack of inflections.
  • Change in posture as well as balance.
  • Stiff muscles.
  • Muscles cramping.

Though Parkison’s Disease itself will not cause death, the complications that arise from it may. Those issues include depression, problems eating, and inability to use the restroom. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists Parkison’s Disease as the 14th cause of death in the United States.

How Is it Treated?

Parkison’s Disease affects everyone differently. Because of this, there is no one size fits all treatment plan for everyone with this medical issue. However, there are many options a person with Parkinson’s Disease can work with. Among that list are medication, surgery, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

The Atlanta Center for Medical Research was founded in 1982 by Dr. Robert A. Riesenberg and is now one of the largest and most respected medical research institutions in the country. If you’re interested in participating in a study about Parkison’s Disease, click here to sign up today!

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