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Parkinson’s

What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system. It can best be described as a movement disorder. It is progressive, whereby the symptoms worsen over time. It develops gradually, with the first symptoms being barely noticeable. Often this is seen as a slight tremor in just one hand. While tremors are the most widely known symptom of the disease, it can also emerge as stiffness (or rigidity of the muscles) and slowing of movement and speech that becomes soft or slurred. Parkinson’s can also result in non-motor symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, constipation, and fatigue. The symptoms result from a progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the section of the brain that regulates body movements.
Most common in older people but can also occur in younger adults
The risk of developing PD is twice as high in men than women
More prevalent in Caucasians than Asians or African Americans

There are an estimated ten million people in the world with Parkinson’s disease with about one million residing in the United States.

Despite all the problems associated with Parkinson’s, it typically has very little impact on life expectancy. People with the disease live about as long as people without the disease. It’s also important to note that early treatment can result in people living years that are nearly symptom-free. The rate of the disease’s progression can also vary significantly. For some, symptoms develop slowly over a decade or two.
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Gibby has an emotional heart-to-heart talk with Gabe Kapler regarding Gabe’s father’s fight against Parkinson’s disease.

What causes Parkinson’s 

In Parkinson’s disease nerve cells in a very specific region of the brain (substantia nigra) break down or die. Many of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s result from the loss of neurons that produce dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate movement. Many treatments for Parkinson’s disease work to increase dopamine levels in the brain.

Research into the causes of Parkinson’s disease is also focusing on Lewey bodies and the protein alpha-synuclein, which is found within Lewy bodies. Lewey bodies are clumps of specific substances within brain cells and are recognized as markers of the disease. Alpha-synuclein clumps within the Lewey bodies in a form that cells can’t break down. It is believed that the build-up of alpha-synuclein contributes to the cause of Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers also believe that genetic factors may sometimes play a role. While considered rare, Parkinson’s disease may result from a viral infection or through exposure to environmental toxins like carbon monoxide, pesticides, certain heavy metals or repeated head injuries. In most cases the cause of the disease is unknown, but researchers commonly believe that the interaction of genetics and environmental factors cause the disease in most people diagnosed.

More questions? Learn how to Navigate Parkinsons.