Hartford Hospital

Conditions In Brief

Search for

Parkinson’s disease is a gradually progressive degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called movement disorders. There are four characteristic problems caused by Parkinson’s disease, including tremor at rest, balance problems, stiffness, and slowness of movement.

The Central Nervous System

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when areas of the brain, including an area called the substantia nigra, is slowly destroyed. The exact reason for this destruction is not completely known. In some patients, it may be due to genetic, environmental, or a combination of both causes. The end result is a deprivation in the brain of an important neurochemical, called dopamine. Dopamine helps regulate movement, and its loss leads to increased tone, rigidity, and slowness of movement. Lack of dopamine results in the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year. Ninety-five percent of those diagnosed are over 50 years old. At any given time, about 500,000 people, or one percent of those over age 50 in the United States are struggling with this condition.

References:

American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/.

Conn HF, Rakel RE. Conn’s Current Therapy 2002. 54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002.

Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 16th ed. McGraw-Hill; 2005.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/.

Obeso JA, et al. Missing pieces in the Parkinson’s disease puzzle. Nature Medicine. 2010;16(6):653-661.

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website. Available at: http://www.pdf.org.

Parkinson's Disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated November 2009. Accessed Dec 12, 2009.

Ropper AH, Samuels MA, "Chapter 39. Degenerative Diseases of the Nervous System" (Chapter). Ropper AH, Samuels MA: Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 9e: http://www.accessmedicine.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/content.aspx?aID=3639002

Rowland LP, Merritt HH. Merritt's Neurology. Philadelphia, PA: Lipincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.

Last reviewed September 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.