Parkinson's disease is a long-term (chronic) neurological condition that affects around 120,000 people in the UK. It is named after Dr James Parkinson, who first identified it in 1817. Parkinson's disease affects the way the brain co-ordinates body movements, including walking, talking and writing.
Parkinson's disease affects men and women, although men are statistically slightly more likely to develop it than women.
The risk of getting Parkinson's disease increases with age. Symptoms usually appear in people who are over the age of 50. However, younger people can also be diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
When the symptoms of Parkinson's disease occur in a person between 21 and 40 years of age, it is known as young-onset Parkinson's disease.
The symptoms of Parkinson's disease usually begin slowly and develop gradually, in no particular order.
Parkinson's disease affects everybody differently. Each person with the condition will have a different collection of symptoms and will respond differently to treatment. The severity of the symptoms also varies between people.
There are three main symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease can make moving difficult, particularly when you try to start moving, and it can take you longer to perform tasks.
You may lack co-ordination in your movements. Often, this slowness of movement is attributed to old age. This means that some people are not diagnosed with Parkinson's disease until other symptoms develop.
Shaking usually begins in one of your hands or arms. It is more likely to occur when the particular part of your body is at rest. Shaking usually decreases when you are using the body part, and it can be more noticeable when you are stressed or anxious.
The presence of a tremor does not necessarily mean that you have Parkinson's disease. Tremor is also a symptom of other conditions and is most commonly due to a harmless condition called essential tremor.
Although most people associate Parkinson's disease with tremor, up to 30% of people with the condition do not have tremor.
If you have Parkinson's disease, your muscles may feel tense. Due to the stiffness, you may have trouble performing simple everyday tasks.
For example, you may find it difficult to turn around, get out of a chair and roll over in bed. Fine finger movements, facial expressions and body language may also become difficult.
Other symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease include:
When seen together, the three main symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease (slowness of movement, shaking and stiffness) are known as parkinsonism. Parkinsonism does not only happen in Parkinson’s disease. This collection of symptoms can be caused by drugs or other conditions, including:
Both of the above disorders have similar symptoms and effects as Parkinson's disease.