Parkinson's Disease


Parkinson's Disease Symptoms

Parkinson's disease is both chronic and progressive. Over time, someone with Parkinson's develops increasing problems moving and talking. Although we tend to think of Parkinson's as an older person's disease, it can also strike younger people. However, according to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), most people who have Parkinson's develop the first signs of the disease after the age of 40, and it is most often seen in people in their 70's and 80's.

Parkinson's actually belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders. These disorders all result from the loss of specific brain cells, which produce a chemical called "dopamine." Dopamine helps transmit signals within the brain.

AAN says that in Parkinson's disease, certain nerve cells, or neurons, may die or become impaired. Normally, these are the neurons that produce dopamine. Without dopamine, the nerve cells fire out of control. The result is that patients are unable to direct or control their movements in a smooth manner.

Although Parkinson's has been known to develop in certain instances as a reaction to viral infection (Read about "Microorganisms") or drug use, no one knows the exact cause of Parkinson's. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), however, Parkinson's is not usually inherited, although some people may have a genetic predisposition to it. (Read about "Genetics") Researchers also say that microscopic brain structures called Lewy bodies are regarded as a hallmark of classical Parkinson's disease. Lewy bodies can be found in other neurodegenerative disorders as well, such as dementia.

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