At its simplest, it is a progressive* neurological disorder, which so far cannot be cured. Parkinson's disease is a long-term (chronic) neurological condition that 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.
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.
When seen together, the three main symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease (slowness of movement, shaking and stiffness) are known as parkinsonism.
Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The nerve cells in this part of the brain are responsible for producing a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine acts as a messenger between the brain and the nervous system, and helps control and co-ordinate body movements.
If these nerve cells become damaged or die, the amount of dopamine in the brain is reduced. This means that the part of the brain that controls movement cannot work so well, which causes movements to become slow and abnormal.
No tests can conclusively show that you have Parkinson's disease. Your doctor will base a diagnosis on your symptoms, your medical history and the results of a clinical examination. Single photon emission computed tomography and MRI may be helpful in diagnosing the disease.
You may not need any treatment during the early stages of Parkinson's disease as symptoms are usually mild. However, you may need regular appointments with your specialist so that your condition can be monitored.
At the moment, there is no cure for Parkinson's disease. However, numerous treatments are available to help control your symptoms and maintain your quality of life.