• Parkinson's Disease

    (PD; Paralysis Agitans; Shaking Palsy)


    Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive movement disorder. PD is characterized by:
    • Slowing down of movements—bradykinesia
    • Tremor at rest
    • Muscle rigidity
    • Loss of reflexes that maintain posture and equilibrium
    Part of the Brain Affected by PD—Yellow Section
    Substansia Nigra
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    PD is caused by a loss of certain nerve cells in the brain. The loss of these cells causes a decrease in the amount of a brain chemical called dopamine. Low dopamine levels cause PD symptoms.
    The brain cells may be lost because of genetic defects, the environment, or some combination of the two. A small amount of people with PD have an early-onset form. This type is caused by an inherited gene defect.

    Risk Factors

    PD is more common in men and in people aged 50 years and older. Other factors that increase your chance of PD include:


    PD is a progressive disease. Symptoms begin mildly and worsen over time.
    PD may cause:
    • Problems with dexterity
    • Difficulty with activities of daily living
    • Fatigue
    • Stiffness and rigidity of muscles, usually beginning on one side of the body
    • Tremors are present at rest, improve with movement, and are absent during sleep
    • Slowness of purposeful movements
    • Neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as:
    • Difficulty and shuffling when walking
    • Poor balance
    • Tendency to fall
    • Loss of smell
    • Sleep problems
    • Flat, monotonous voice
    • Stuttering
    • Trouble speaking (often speaking with a low volume)
    • Increasingly mask-like face, with little variation in expression
    • Drooling and excessive salivation
    • Shaky, spidery, or small handwriting
    • Seborrhea (a skin problem that causes a red rash and white scales)
    • Trouble chewing and swallowing
    • Urinary symptoms (frequency and urgency)
    • Bowel movement symptoms (straining, constipation)


    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. There are no tests to definitively diagnose PD. The doctor will ask many questions. This will help to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
    Tests to rule out other conditions may include:
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests
    Imaging tests evaluate internal bodily structures. This can be done with:


    Currently, there are no treatments to cure PD. There are also no proven treatments to slow or stop its progression. Some medications may help to improve symptoms. Over time, the side effects of the medication may become troublesome. The medications may also lose their effectiveness.


    Medications that may be used to treat PD include:
    • Levodopa-carbidopa
    • Dopamine agonists
    • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
    • Anticholinergics
    • COMT inhibitors
    • Antivirals
    Depression or hallucinations may also occur with PD and its treatment. Medications may be prescribed to attempt to treat these conditions. The drugs may include:
    • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
    • Tricyclic antidepressants
    • Antipsychotics
    Hip fractures are common in those with PD. Bisphosphonates are medications that may help reduce this risk.
    Constipation, drooling, and lightheadedness when standing are common and may improve with medications or other treatments.


    Different brain operations are available, and many more are being researched including:
    • Deep brain stimulation (DBS)—implanting a device to stimulate certain parts of the brain; can decrease tremor and rigidity
    • Thalamotomy and pallidotomy—destroying certain areas of the brain to improve tremor when medication does not work (not as common as deep brain stimulation)
    • Nerve-cell transplants (research only)—to increase amount of dopamine made in the brain

    Physical Therapy

    Therapy can improve muscle tone, strength, and balance. It includes exercises and stretches. There is also evidence that alternative therapies, such as tai chi, yoga, or dance, may be beneficial.

    Psychological Support

    Consider joining a support group with other people with PD. It will help to learn how others are learning to live with the challenges of PD.

    Cognitive Training

    Cognitive training works on aspects of the brain that control certain functions so they can be performed better in daily life. Activities are meant to promote and increase brain fitness through learning or exercises. It works best in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle habits. Some people with Parkinson's disease have seen improvements in reasoning, problem solving, processing speed, and working memory.


    There are no current guidelines to prevent PD.


    National Parkinson Foundation http://www.parkinson.org

    Parkinson's Disease Foundation http://www.pdf.org


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Parkinson Society Canada http://www.parkinson.ca


    Alvarez MV, Evidente VG. Understanding drug induced parkinsonism: Separating pearls from oysters. Neurology. 2008;70(8):e32-e34.

    Li F, Harmer P, Fitzgerald K, et al. Tai chi and postural instability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. N Engl J Med. 2012;366(6):511-519.

    Liu R, Gao X, Lu Y, Chen H. Meta-analysis of the relationship between Parkinson disease and melanoma. Neurology. 2011;76(23):2002-2009.

    Managing your PD. Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website. Available at: http://www.pdf.org/en/managing%5Fpd. Accessed August 28, 2015.

    Nielsen NM, Rostgaard K, Hjalgrim H, Aaby P, Askgaard D. Poliomyelitis and Parkinson disease. JAMA. 2002;287(13):1650-1651.

    NINDS Parkinson's disease information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/parkinsons%5Fdisease/parkinsons%5Fdisease.htm. Updated July 27, 2015. Accessed August 28, 2015.

    Obeso JA, Rodriguez-Oroz MC, Goetz CG, et al. Missing pieces in the Parkinson’s disease puzzle. Nat Med. 2010;16(6):653-661.

    Parkinson disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115172/Parkinson-disease. Updated September 11, 2016. accessed September 22, 2016.

    Parkinson's disease. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Parkinsons%20Disease.aspx. Accessed August 28, 2015.

    Perlmutter JS, Eidelberg D. To scan or not to scan: DaT is the question. Neurology. 2012;78(10):688-689.

    Ristić AJ, Vojvodić N, Janković S, Sindelić A, Sokić D. The frequency of reversible parkinsonism and cognitive decline associated with valproate treatment: a study of 364 patients with different types of epilepsy. Epilepsia. 2006:47(12):2183-2185.

    Samii A, Nutt JG, Ransom BR. Parkinson's disease. Lancet. 2004;363(9423):1783-1793.

    Schenkman N, Hall DA, Barón AE, Schwartz RS, Mettler P, Kohrt WM. Exercise for people in early- or mid-stage Parkinson disease: A 16-month randomized controlled trial. Phys Ther. 2012;92(11):1395-1410.

    Siderowf A, Stern M. Update on Parkinson's disease. Ann Intern Med. 2003;138(8):651-658.

    Wider C, Wszolek CK. Movement disorders: Insights into mechanisms and hopes for treatments. Lancet Neurology. 2009;8(1):8-10.

    1/4/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115172/Parkinson-disease: Spinks A, Wasiak J, Bernath V, Villaneuva E. Scopolamine (hyoscine) for preventing and treating motion sickness. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(4):CD002851.

    4/7/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115172/Parkinson-disease: Marras C, Hincapié CA, Kristman VL, et al. Systematic review of the risk of Parkinson's disease after mild traumatic brain injury: results of the international collaboration on mild traumatic brain injury prognosis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014;95(3S):S238-S244.

    9/3/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115172/Parkinson-disease: Wippold FJ, Brown DC, Broderick DF, et al. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria for dementia and movement disorders. Available at: http://www.acr.org/~/media/ACR/Documents/AppCriteria/Diagnostic/DementiaAndMovementDisorders.pdf. Updated 2014. Accessed August 28, 2015.

    11/10/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115172/Parkinson-disease: Shanahan J, Morries ME, Bhriain ON, Saunders J, Clifford AM. Dance for people with Parkinson disease: what is the evidence telling us? Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015;96(1):141-153.

    2/24/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115172/Parkinson-disease: Leung IH, Walton CC, Hallock H, et al. Cognitive training in Parkinson disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurology. 2015;85(21):1843-1851.

    10/17/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115172/Parkinson-disease: Ni M Signorile JF, et al. Comparitive effect of power training and high-speed yoga on motor function in older patients with Parkinson disease. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 Mar;97(3):345-354.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.