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Five Fast Facts About Parkinson’s Disease

There are an estimated 10 million people around the world living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a progressive neurodegenerative disease, that causes tremors, slowed movements and muscle rigidity, as well as difficulties with speech and writing. Here’s what you need to know about this condition.

1) Parkinson’s Disease Was Named After a British Physician Who First Identified the Disorder.

In 1817, a London-based physician named James Parkinson published an article entitled, "An Essay on The Shaking Palsy" in which he described six of his patients who suffered from the symptoms that we now know to be caused by Parkinson’s Disease. It was the first time the disease had been discussed in modern medical literature, and the condition soon became named for Dr. Parkinson, who was the first physician to describe the condition in detail.

2) Parkinson’s Disease Results From a Lack of Dopamine.

The symptoms of PD develop when the brain suffers from a depletion of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Since dopamine is responsible for motor function, a lack of dopamine results in muscle dysfunction, which causes the hallmark symptoms of PD.

3) Neurologists Use Several Criteria to Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease.

While patients with neurologic symptoms often undergo imaging to rule out other causes of their symptoms, such as a brain tumor, Parkinson’s Disease is typically diagnosed based on a patient’s history and exam. Common exam findings include a resting tremor that often begins in the fingers or hands, smaller-than-usual handwriting, stiff or slow movements, sleep disruption, loss of smell, and a shuffling gait.

4) There Are Several Known Risk Factors for Developing Parkinson’s Disease.

Age and gender are two of the biggest risk factors for developing PD. The condition is most commonly diagnosed in patients 60 years and older. PD is so rare in younger patients that when it’s diagnosed in patients less than 50 years old, it’s designated as "Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease."

Men have a 50% increased risk of developing PD compared to their female counterparts. And there can also be a genetic component, with up to 15% of PD cases caused by hereditary genetic factors.

5) There’s No Known Cure for Parkinson’s Disease, But There Are Several Effective Treatments.

While there’s no known cure for PD yet, there are several effective treatments available, including physical therapy, speech therapy, oral medications, infusions and surgical treatments.

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