Symptomatic Parkinson Disease

What is Symptomatic Parkinson Disease?

Symptomatic Parkinson Disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects a person's movement, coordination, and balance. It is caused by a lack of dopamine, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the brain that helps control movement. In people with Parkinson's, dopamine-producing nerve cells (neurons) gradually die off, leading to the movement problems associated with the disease.

Symptoms of PD usually begin slowly, and may include tremors or trembling, muscle stiffness, trouble initiating movement, slowness of movement, and impaired balance. Other symptoms might include memory and thinking trouble such as dementia, loss of smell, depression, sleep problems, and pain. Symptoms for people with PD can vary significantly from one person to another.

Diagnosis of Symptomatic Parkinson Disease

There is no single test that can diagnose PD; rather, diagnosis is a process that involves a physical and neurological examination, typically including a review of medical history, lab tests, and imaging procedures. During the physical exam, a doctor may look for signs of tremor, rigidity, difficulty with movement, impaired balance, or changes in speech. Your doctor also may ask you questions about your medical history and watch how you move when walking and completing other activities.

In some cases, medications may be used to help diagnose PD. Your doctor may prescribe a drug containing levodopa, the primary ingredient in many PD medications, to see how your symptoms respond. If improvements are seen, it can be a sign that you have the disease.

Treatment of PD

Treatment for PD depends on many factors, including your symptoms, age, general health, and tolerance for specific medications. It is important to note that PD is not curable; however, treatments can help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Common treatments for PD include:

  • Medications to improve or maintain motor and cognitive functions
  • Surgery to stimulate nerve cells in the brain
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Assistive devices such as walkers and wheelchair
  • Speech therapy
  • Nutritional advice and supplements

Support and Resources for PD

There are many resources available to help support those who are living with PD and their families. Organizations such as the Parkinson's Foundation and the National Parkinson's Association offer information about PD, educational materials, and access to support groups and other resources. Patients may also wish to speak with their healthcare team about available options, including support groups, palliative care, and clinical trials.