Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that affects the nerves in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter, dopamine.  Parkinson’s disease primarily affects the motor system (part of the nervous system that controls body movement. 

Parkinson’s Disease Anatomy

Image of a brain with parkinsons disease

The motor symptoms of the disease are due to cell death in the substantia nigra which is located in the midbrain. This results in not enough dopamine in this area which is a critical neurotransimitter that allows nerves to communicate with each other. 

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

It is not clear what causes Parkinson’s disease. The most accepted theory in the literature is that it is a combination of environmental factors and genetics (meaning is hereditary). Meaning, a number of cases of people with Parkinson’s disease were exposed to certain pesticides. Researchers have also found that people who have a family member with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to develop the disease. 

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?  

Symptoms vary slightly from person to person, and usually develop slowly over several years. The most notable symptoms include:

  • Tremor in the hand
  • Bradykinesia – slow movement
  • Limb rigidity –
  • Walking and balance problems

Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease

In most cases, a diagnosis is based on symptoms. Doctors will typically arrive at a diagnosis by using neuroimaging to rule out all other potential differential diagnoses. 

 

 

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