Parkinson's disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that belongs to a group of conditions called movement disorders. It is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. As nerve cells (neurons) in parts of the brain become impaired or die, people may begin to notice problems with movement, tremor, stiffness in the limbs or the trunk of the body, or impaired balance. As these symptoms become more pronounced, people may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Not everyone with one or more of these symptoms has PD, as the symptoms appear in other diseases as well.
The precise cause of PD is unknown, although some cases of PD are hereditary and can be traced to specific genetic mutations. Most cases are sporadic—that is, the disease does not typically run in families. It is thought that PD likely results from a combination of genetic susceptibility and exposure to one or more unknown environmental factors that trigger the disease.
PD is the most common form of parkinsonism, in which disorders of other causes produce features and symptoms that closely resemble Parkinson’s disease. While most forms of parkinsonism have no known cause, there are cases in which the cause is known or suspected or where the symptoms result from another disorder.
No cure for PD exists today, but research is ongoing and medications or surgery can often provide substantial improvement with motor symptoms.
Reference: National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke
Last updated: May 4, 2017
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