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MAIN Arrow to Health Health Arrow to Disease Diseases Arrow to Parkinson's DiseaseParkinson's Disease

illustration showing the location in the brain where dopamine is produced
An area of the brain known as the substantia
nigra is responsible for producing dopamine - an
essential neurotransmitter that controls
muscle movement.


Parkinson's disease is a neuromuscular breakdown resulting in the body losing control of the muscles.

In the U.S. alone, 500,000 people suffer with the condition with thousands more diagnosed every year.

Although Parkinson's can be diagnosed at any age, the average onset is usually seen around 50 years of age.

Like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's may begin with muscle weakening but eventually progresses to effect vital functions over time.

Like any neuromuscular disease, problems arise when neurotransmitters that effect muscle movement misfire or cease altogether due to damage in one or more areas of the brain.

Symptoms & signs of Parkinson's disease

The most debilitating aspect of the disease is the loss of the brain chemical dopamine, which leaves nerve cells unable to direct or control muscle movements in a normal way.

The initial and most noticeable symptoms of Parkinson's is muscle stiffening, or tremors in the face, arms, or legs.

As the condition worsens, balance and posture problems may be experienced along with difficulty swallowing due to weakened throat muscles. Problems with insomnia, mood swings or depression, and mental confusion similar to Alzheimer's disease are also common in people who have advanced Parkinson's.

Treating Parkinson's

Although there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, the drug L-dopa successfully replaces dopamine and replenishes the brain's dwindling supply while delaying seriously debilitating symptoms.

While L-dopa considerably improves quality of life for many who suffer with Parkinson's the drug may also bring it with it painful muscle spasms, uncontrollable muscle movement, heart problems, hair loss, or other side effects.

Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali, two famous celebrities with Parkinsons
Celebrities who have battled Parkinson's
disease include actor Michael J. Fox
and boxing great Muhammad Ali.


Additional treatments also prescribed for Parkinson's may include painkillers for aching muscles, antidepressants for mood disorders, anticholinergic medications to reduce early or mild tremors, or medications to help cognitive difficulties.

Complementary treatments suggested for Parkinson's most often include Coenzyme Q10 supplements, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, and even music therapy to help with muscle movement.

Most recently, a study has found low levels of Vitamin D have been found in Parkinson's patients which suggests possible new research into treating the condition with an over-the-counter supplement.

Meanwhile, the disease has also been given a high public profile by famous celebrities who suffer from Parkinson's, most notably boxing great Muhammad Ali and actor Michael J. Fox, who have contributed generously to funding ongoing research into the disease.

Further study continues to add even more information to causes and prevention, and may someday lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease in the hope of an eventual cure.

also see -> Dementia | Huntington's Disease

More about Parkinson's disease around the Web:

National Parkinson Foundation - Funding research for the cure, with a wealth of information that research has discovered. Interactive tests, links, discussion groups, doctor finder, expert advice, and more.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation - It is hard to think of anyone who has done more to bring the reality of living with PD into public awareness. The site is a clearinghouse of useful information and research. The Community section will bring you to related resources and more info.


This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.


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