Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder (after Alzheimer’s disease) which affects both motor and non-motor functioning.
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder resulting from the loss of dopamine in a part of the brain called substantia nigra.
Dopamine acts as a chemical messenger, allowing nerve impulses to travel smoothly from one nerve cell to another. This enables the transmission of messages to muscles in the body to begin voluntary movement.
As dopamine continues to decrease, muscle movements become slower and more rigid, tremors can develop and reflexes become more impaired contributing to a loss of balance. Some of the primary symptoms that are associated with Parkinson’s include tremor, rigidity, akinesia or bradykinesia, postural instability, soft speech, writing problems and sleep disturbances. Non-motor symptoms can include depression, anxiety, psychosis, dementia, memory problems and difficulty with communication.
While symptoms typically begin to appear at age 55 to 60 years, 10% of all people diagnosed with Parkinson’s will be under the age of 40. Both men and women are affected by this disease, and race and ethnicity do not predetermine risk factors for this disorder.