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What is Parkinson's Disease?

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A chronic, progressive neurodegenerative movement disorder   by #56153   18 year 1 of 1 (100%)

Parkinsonís disease is a chronic, progressive neurodegenerative movement disorder. Tremors, rigidity, slow movement (bradykinesia), poor balance, and difficulty walking (called parkinsonian gait) are characteristic primary symptoms of Parkinsonís disease.

Idiopathic Parkinson's disease is the most common form of parkinsonism, a group of movement disorders that have similar features and symptoms. Parkinsonís disease is called idiopathic Parkinsonís because the cause is unknown. In the other forms of parkinsonism, a cause is known or suspected.

Parkinsonís results from the degeneration of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain, specifically in the substantia nigra and the locus coeruleus. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates motor neurons, those nerve cells that control the muscles. When dopamine production is depleted, the motor system nerves are unable to control movement and coordination. Parkinson's disease patients have lost 80% or more of their dopamine-producing cells by the time symptoms appear.

Incidence and Prevalence

Parkinsonís disease afflicts 1 to 1 1/2 million people in the United States. The disorder occurs in all races but is somewhat more prevalent among Caucasians. Men are affected slightly more often than women.

Symptoms of Parkinsonís disease may appear at any age, but the average age of onset is 60. It is rare in people younger than 30 and risk increases with age. It is estimated that 5% to 10% of patients experience symptoms before the age of 40.

Risk Factors

In a small number of cases worldwide there is a strong inheritance pattern. A genetic predisposition for Parkinsonís disease is possible, with the onset of disease and its gradual development dependant on a trigger, such as trauma, other illness, or exposure to an environmental toxin.

The risk increases with age, as Parkinsonís disease generally manifests in the middle or late years of life.
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