Parkinson's Disease is a chronic, progressive, brain disorder common among the elderly, that affects coordination between the brain and the muscles.
Parkinson's Disease (PD) occurs when certain nerve cells (neurons) in the Substantia Nigra of the brain is destroyed or fails to function. These nerve cells produce dopamine
, a neurotransmitter, that facilitates the smooth, coordinated function of the body's muscles and movement. When approximately 80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of PD begin to appear.
Parkinson's disease was referred to as "shaking palsy"
when it was first described by James Parkinson in 1817. Parkinson's disease usually affects individuals in their middle or late life, preferably after the age of 50 years, and gradually advances to cause increasing disability in 10-15 years. In about 5% to 10% of cases, the disease may strike early to affect individuals in their 20s or 30s. This is called 'early-onset' Parkinson's disease.
The disease can be classified as early, moderate or advanced
, depending on the gravity of the symptoms. Due to the tremors that they experience, the PD individuals are at an increased risk of suffering a fall or being choked. PD affected individuals have a characteristic shuffled gait. Slowness of movement, rigid facial expression and muffled speech are other traits of these individuals. People with PD can enjoy a normal life span, although complications such as pneumonia may affect them in the advanced stages of the disease.
While there is no cure for PD, the symptoms can certainly be controlled. In recent times surgery is an option for advanced Parkinson's disease or in situations where symptoms can no longer be adequately managed with medications.