Parkinson’s Disease Overview

Parkinson’s disease also called paralysis agitans, is a movement disorder resulting from the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. The disorder is chronic and progressive, which means that the symptoms develop gradually and worsen over time. Read more in this Parkinson’s patient education guide.

The four main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are listed below; however, each of these symptoms can occur in other disorders, as well.

  • Trembling of the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head (also called tremor)
  • Stiffness of the limbs and trunk (also called rigidity)
  • Slowness of movement (also called bradykinesia)
  • Impaired balance (also called postural instability)

As the symptoms worsen, people with Parkinson’s disease may have difficulty walking, talking, or performing simple physical tasks. They may also develop secondary symptoms, such as difficulty chewing and swallowing, depression, lack of facial expression, speech changes, urinary problems or constipation, muscle cramps and pain, dementia, sleep problems, oily skin, excessive sweating, fatigue and loss of energy, low blood pressure when getting up from a lying position, and sexual dysfunction

By some estimates, at least 500,000 people in the United States currently have Parkinson’s disease, though other estimates are even higher. The risk of Parkinson’s disease increases with age and is greater in men than in women. The average age of Parkinsons onset is 60 years old, though about 5-10 percent of cases occur in people under age 50 (called “early-onset” disease).


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