Parkinson's disease | Neurology & Neurosurgery | Loyola Medicine

Parkinson’s Disease

Overview and Facts about Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition that affects movement. The condition occurs when certain nerve cells in the brain slowly break down or die. Problems with thinking, sleeping, chewing, and other daily functions are common with this condition. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year.

Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

The signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually begin slowly and gradually get worse. It can start as a very slight tremor in just one hand, eventually progressing to a more noticeable tremor in both hands. Tremors are the most common symptom, but the condition is also commonly associated with stiffness and an overall slowing of movement. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • A blank facial expression
  • Arms not swinging while walking
  • Changes in the ability to write
  • Soft or slurred speech

Causes and Risk Factors of Parkinson's Disease

The cause for Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but doctors have identified some factors that seem to contribute to the risk for developing the condition. These factors include:

  • Certain gene mutations and family history
  • Environmental factors, including being exposed to certain toxins
  • Age, the disease affects individuals who are older
  • Being male

Tests and Diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease

A doctor specializing in neurology can help identify Parkinson’s disease; however, there is no specific diagnostic test for this condition. The neurologist may order certain lab tests, such as blood work and imaging tests, to rule out other conditions that may cause your symptoms.

Treatment and Care for Parkinson's Disease

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but in some cases, prescribed medications can help control symptoms and keep them manageable. Medications may also be used to increase dopamine levels, which can also help control, but not eliminate, symptoms.

Additionally, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms. This surgery is called deep brain stimulation and involves implanting electrodes into a specific part of the brain and connecting them to a generator located near the collarbone. For some people, this surgery may be effective at controlling symptoms.