Parkinson’s occurs when dopamine producing nerve cells in the brain die. Dopamine is the chemical that helps push movement signals around the body. It tells us when to walk, pick up a sandwich, to talk, when to write, in fact, when to make any movement at all. All these things become harder and harder to do as the nerve cells die off and less dopamine is produced.
It’s not yet known why people get Parkinson’s but is believed to be due to a mix of genetic and environmental factors. There is currently no cure.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s
The three main symptoms of the condition are involuntary shaking (tremors), slowed movements and muscle stiffness, but there are more, including, problems with sleep, memory and mental health issues. Everyone’s experience of Parkinson’s is different and, though it is more common in older people, it can affect anyone, of any gender, at any age.
When to visit your GP
If you think you or someone you know might have Parkinson’s, visit your GP who will ask you about the problems you are experiencing and may refer you to a specialist for tests.
Though there is no cure, there are ways to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s:
- Take your medication – drug treatments will help manage your symptoms
- Exercise regularly – around 2.5 hours of exercise a week can help slow the progression of Parkinson’s
- Keep a diary – monitoring your symptoms in a diary can help you to feel a little more in control
- Try different therapies – occupational, physio, speech and language are just some therapies to try
Many people respond well to treatment and only experience mild to moderate disability, whereas the minority may not respond as well and can, in time, become more severely disabled.
Parkinson's disease doesn't directly cause people to die, but the condition can place great strain on the body, and can make some people more vulnerable to serious and life-threatening infections.
However, with advances in treatment, most people with Parkinson's disease now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.
They can be contacted by:
free helpline on 0808 800 0303 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm, and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays)
The Parkinson's UK website features news, publications, research updates and an online community where you can share your experiences.