Parkinson’s Disease

Know More: Parkinson's Disease

Trustworthy information, straight from the source. Education is the first step in an empowering healthcare plan. Learn more about Parkinson’s disease from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.

Woman meeting with provider

Condition Overview

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a long-term movement disorder. The brain cells that control movement start to die and cause changes in how you move, feel, and act. Even though Parkinson’s disease may progress and have a severe impact on your daily life, it is not a life-threatening disease.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. It may be caused by a problem with how your brain works. A chemical called dopamine helps your brain control your movement, thoughts, and feelings. Parkinson’s disease causes brain cells that make dopamine to die, so they cannot make enough dopamine.

What increases my risk for Parkinson’s disease?

  • Age 60 years or older.
  • A family history of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides or herbicides.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

What are the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Symptoms often increase and get worse over time. You may have any of the following:

  • Tremors (shaking) that go away when you move or sleep.
  • Trouble moving or getting up from a seated position.
  • Trouble with small movements, such as buttoning clothing or eating.
  • Less blinking and facial emotion.
  • Joint stiffness and jerky movement.
  • Trouble keeping your balance when standing or changing positions.
  • Shuffling or hunched position while walking.
  • Trouble speaking and writing.

How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms, medical history and if you have family members with Parkinson’s disease. He or she will examine you and may move your arms or legs to test your muscles. He or she may check your balance and the way you walk.

How is Parkinson’s disease treated?

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. The goal of treatment is to help manage your symptoms. You may need any of the following:

  • Anti-Parkinson medicines are used to improve movement problems, such as muscle stiffness, twitches, and restlessness. Your healthcare provider may use several types of this medicine to help manage your symptoms.
  • Botulinum toxin may be given as an injection into your muscles to help them relax and be less stiff.
  • Surgery may be used to place an electrical device inside your brain during surgery called deep brain stimulation. Deep brain stimulation may help to decrease symptoms, such as tremor and rigidity. Once the device is in your brain, you may turn the device on or off whenever you want.

Preparing for Care

How can I manage Parkinson’s disease?

  • Do not eat foods that are high in protein or dairy. They can cause problems with how some of your medicine works. Ask your healthcare provider how much protein and dairy is safe to eat. He or she may tell you to eat foods high in fiber to make it easier to have a bowel movement. Examples are cereals, beans, vegetables, and whole-grain breads. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Do not drive unless your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Exercise regularly. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. This may help you control your body movements, and keep your balance.
  • Go to occupational therapy. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities. Your occupational therapist may help you choose equipment to help you at home and work. He or she can also suggest ways to keep your home and workplace safe.
  • Go to speech therapy. A speech therapist may work with you to help you improve your ability to talk or swallow.
  • Go to counseling. A mental health counselor can help you talk about your feeling about Parkinson’s disease. Your family may attend meetings to learn new ways to take better care of both you and themselves.

When should I seek immediate care for Parkinson’s disease?

  • You feel like hurting or killing yourself or others.
  • You feel lightheaded, dizzy, or faint.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have weakness in an arm or leg.
  • You become confused, or you have difficulty speaking.
  • You have dizziness, a severe headache, or vision changes.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You are not sleeping well or you sleep more than usual.
  • You cannot eat or are eating more than usual.
  • You feel that your condition is getting worse.
  • You have new symptoms since your last appointment.
  • Your sad feelings or thoughts change the way you function during the day.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.