The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are generally stiffness, tremors, and slowness of movement. Other symptoms (listed below) can also develop according to the degree of the disease. Generally, symptoms gradually get worse over time. Treatment often provides good relief from Parkinson’s symptoms for several years.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disease (persistent or long-lasting) due to a disorder in one part of the brain. It is named after the doctor who first described it. Parkinson’s disease mainly affects the way the brain coordinates the movements of muscles in various parts of the body.

Who gets Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease mainly develops in people over the age of 50. But Parkinson’s becomes more common as we age. About 5 out of 1,000 people in their 60s, and about 40 out of 1,000 people in their 80s suffer from Parkinson’s disease. This problem affects both men and women, but is slightly more common in men. In rare cases, it develops in people younger than 50 years old.

Parkinson’s disease is generally not inherited, and it can affect anyone . However, genetic (inherited) factors may be important in the small number of people who develop PD before age 50.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

A small part of the brain called the substantia nigra is primarily affected by Parkinson’s disease . This area of ​​the brain sends messages down the nerves in the spinal cord to help control the muscles in the body. Messages are transmitted between cells in the brain, nerves, and muscles by chemicals called neurotransmitters . Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter that is sent by brain cells in the substantia nigra.

The person with Parkinson’s disease has a number of cells in the substantia nigra that are damaged and begin to die. The exact cause of this is not known. Over time, more and more cells are damaged and die. As the cells are damaged, the amount of dopamine that is produced is reduced.

A combination of shrinking cells and a low level of dopamine in cells in this part of the brain causes messages from the nerves to the muscles to become slow and abnormal.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Cells in the brain and nerves affected by Parkinson’s disease normally produce coordinated smooth movements and muscle stiffness. Therefore, three common Parkinson’s symptoms that develop gradually are:

Slow movement

Slowness of movement ( bradykinesia ). For example, it may become more of an effort to walk or get up from a chair. When this stage of Parkinson’s develops it can be confused with being an effect of entering old age. But the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease may not be obvious unless other symptoms occur . Over time, a typical pattern develops when attempting to walk. There will be some difficulty in starting, stopping and turning easily.

Muscle stiffness

Stiff muscles or feeling tighter. Also, the arms do not tend to swing as much when walking and some stillness may be noted when trying to move.


Tremors are another of the most common signs of Parkinson’s disease, but they do not always occur . It usually affects the fingers, thumbs, hands, and arms , but can affect other parts of the body. It is most noticeable when you are at rest. These tremors can become worse when the person is feeling anxious or emotional. It tends to be less when the hand is used to do something like pick up an object.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease tend to slowly get worse . However, the speed at which symptoms get worse varies from person to person. It can take several years before they are bad enough to have much of an effect on your life. At first, one side of your body may be more affected than the other.

Some other symptoms can develop due to problems with the way the brain cells are affected and not being able to control the muscles. These include:

  • Facial expressions such as smiling or frowning are reduced as well as blinking.
  • Difficulty with movement, such as tying shoelaces or buttoning your shirt.
  • Difficulty writing (handwriting tends to be very tedious and difficult).
  • Difficulty with balance and posture and a greater tendency to fall.
  • Speech can be slow and monotonous.
  • Ingestion of food can be bothersome, and saliva can accumulate in the mouth.
  • Tiredness and discomfort such as pain may be present more than usual.

Various other symptoms in some cases, especially when Parkinson’s condition worsens. These include:

  • Constipation .
  • Bladder symptoms and sometimes incontinence.
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or smelling things that are not real).
  • The sweating .
  • Sexual difficulties.
  • Alterations in the sense of smell.
  • Difficulties sleeping.
  • Weight loss .
  • Pain.
  • Depression .
  • Anxiety.

Also, for reasons that are not clear, people with Parkinson’s disease are at increased risk of developing skin cancer but not melanoma. People with Parkinson’s disease should be sure to use sunscreen, stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day, wear a sun hat, and protect their skin from the sun whenever possible.

Ways to prevent Parkinson’s disease

Exercise can help prevent Parkinson’s disease
New research suggests that exercise has even more benefits than previously thought.

A new study of more than 100,000 people found that men who exercised regularly and vigorously as adults had a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to men who did not.

Men who were the most physically active reduced their risk by 50 percent compared to men who were the least active.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes muscle tremors and stiffness as mentioned above; And although there is currently no cure for this disease, ways can be found to prevent it or reduce the risk of contracting it.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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