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Parkinson’s disease - Fact Sheet

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Types of brain disorders

Parkinson’s disease - Fact Sheet

Parkinson's disease affects more than just the elderly, with one in 10 people diagnosed before the age of 40. 

The majority of the population understand it to be 'just the shakes' but the reality is much different - it is the second most common neurological disease in Australia after dementia, and affects 100,000 Australians.

Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disorder of unknown cause but old age remains the greatest risk factor. There is no objective test, or biomarker, for Parkinson's disease, so the rate of misdiagnosis can be relatively high, especially when the diagnosis is made by a non-specialist.

Whilst living with Parkinson's will require modifications in some areas of your life, it is important for you to remain positive during the changes and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. A variety of medications is available to effectively treat the symptoms and help you lead a full life.

Parkinson's disease results from the loss of cells in various parts of the brain, including a region called the substantia nigra which produces dopamine. Loss of dopamine causes neurons to fire without normal control, leaving patients less able to direct or control their movement.

The exact cause of Parkinson's disease is unknown, although research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The single biggest risk factor for Parkinson's disease is advancing age. Men have a somewhat higher risk than women.

People are generally most familiar with the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease:

  • Slowness of movement 
  • Rigidity
  • Resting tremor
  • Postural instability, or balance problems.


Other physical symptoms, such as gait problems and reduced facial expression, may also occur. Other symptoms can include:

  • Cognitive impairment 
  • Mood disorders
  • Sleep difficulties 
  • Loss of sense of smell, called hyposmia
  • Constipation, speech and swallowing problems

References and further information

This information is an exerpt from the Shake It Up Australia  Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes  and fund Parkinson's disease research in Australia. Visit their  website at http://shakeitup.org.au for more information  about Parkinson's disease.

 

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