What is Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain condition that largely affects movement.

Its symptoms mainly comprise tremor (involuntary shaking), muscle stiffness and slow physical movement, but it can also affect mood and is sometimes associated with dementia. It is a common condition that affects around 1 in 500 people. It most often occurs in the over 60s, although there are younger-onset forms. Men are more likely to be affected than women.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in the amount of a chemical called dopamine. The cause of this neurodegeneration is unknown, although most researchers think it results from a combination of genetic (inherited) and environmental factors. There are rare forms of Parkinson’s disease that run in families.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease but the symptoms can be managed with dopamine-replacement drug treatment, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy.

Useful links

Parkinson’s UK (http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/)

NHS Choices, Parkinson’s disease (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Parkinsons-disease)

Parkinson's disease.com (http://www.parkinsonsdisease.com/)