Learn more about Parkinson's Disease

What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson's Disease (PD) is a complex, multi-symptom, degenerative neurological disorder that requires specialized care, as well as an ongoing knowledge of the disease process. The daily struggle of living with PD involves difficulty moving, as well as difficulty with daily functioning such as communicating, eating, dressing, swallowing and digestion. Balance is another area that is affected by PD, resulting in the increased risk of falls. The ability to control symptoms depends on a delicate balance of the selection of the best treatments for each person and finding the right amount and timing of medications throughout the day. The above are only a sample of the many reasons that persons with PD and their caregivers should work with a neurologist specializing in the treatment of PD to optimize the quality of life for people with PD and their loved ones.

Demographics of Parkinson's Disease:
More than 1 million people have been diagnosed with PD in the United States. The average onset is age 60, with 5–10% of people diagnosed before age 40. PD affects slightly more men than women and there are no ethnic or geographic boundaries.

Causes of Parkinson's Disease:
A definitive cause of PD is unknown. The prevailing theory is that the combination of exposure to an environmental toxin or insult of some sort combined with a genetic vulnerability causes PD. Diagnosis is based on clinical judgment, with no definitive test. Currently, there is no known cure. Treatments focus on relieving symptoms. Research focuses on improving the quality of life of persons with PD, identification of the cause of PD, development of new treatments for PD and most importantly, finding the cure for PD.

University of Kansas Medical Center - Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorder Center

Wellness Strategies:
Exercise, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, relaxation, good nutrition, good sleep habits

Cardinal Symptoms:
Tremor at rest
Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
Muscle rigidity
Impaired balance

Secondary Symptoms:
Freezing (difficulty moving the feet off the floor)
Speech problems
Sleep disorders
Masked facies - lack of facial expression due to rigid facial muscles 
Micrographia - very small handwriting
Hallucinations and psychosis
Excessive salivation

Cognitive and Emotional Changes:
Dementia occurs in 30% of PD patients, usually in the later stages. Most people with PD maintain a normal level of cognitive functioning. Depression and anxiety are both elevated in people with PD. Anxiety and stress exacerbate PD symptoms, especially tremor.

Keys to treating patients with Parkinson's Disease:
Fall prevention
Timing of medication
Plenty of water
Maintaining physical abilities through movement/exercise