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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disease of the nervous system that causes impaired or involuntary movements, and can affect behavior, mood, and other non-motor functions of the body. PD is a progressive disease, meaning that it worsens over time. Diagnosis usually occurs after age 55, though early onset at a younger age is also possible.
Parkinson's disease is caused by the progressive loss of dopaminergic neuron cells in the brain. This results in a shortage of the chemical messenger called dopamine, which is important for controlling the body’s motor functions.
Parkinson's disease is characterized by:
- Tremor, most commonly starting in the hands, but can also occur in the tongue, jaw and legs
- Stiff or rigid muscles (spasticity)
- Slow movement (bradykinesia)
- Decreased vocal volume
- Lack of facial expression
- Abnormally small handwriting (micrographia)
- Shuffling gait (an impaired walk, as if the feet are stuck to the floor)
- Decreased arm movement when walking
- Difficulty with balance, posture or gait, which may result in falls.
PD symptoms can often be controlled with medication alone, or with a combination of medication and surgical intervention, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), for patients who meet certain criteria. The extent to which symptoms can be reduced depends on each patient’s individual circumstances. At the University of Chicago Medicine, our goal is to improve symptoms so our patients can enjoy the highest possible quality of life.