What is Parkinson's?


Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disease. Movement is normally controlled by dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain. When cells that normally produce dopamine die, the symptoms of Parkinson's appear.

Most common symptoms

  • Tremor
  • Slowness and stiffness
  • Impaired balance
  • Rigidity of the muscles

Other symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Soft speech
  • Problems with handwriting
  • Stooped posture
  • Constipation
  • Sleep disturbances

A diagnosis of Parkinson's can take time. A family doctor might notice it first. You may be referred to a neurologist – a specialist who deals with Parkinson's. There are no xrays or tests to confirm Parkinson's. So the neurologist will check your medical history, do a careful physical examination and certain tests, and rule out other conditions which may resemble Parkinson's.

Currently there is no cure. You can live with Parkinson's for years. The symptoms are treated with medication. Some people with Parkinson's may benefit from surgery. The following therapies can also help manage the symptoms:

  • Physical therapy helps mobility, flexibility and balance
  • Occupational therapy helps with daily activities
  • Speech therapy helps with voice control
  • Exercise helps muscles and joints and improves overall health and well-being

Parkinson's can progress at a different rate for each person. As symptoms change, medication will need to be adjusted. As the disease progresses, non-motor symptoms may also appear, such as depression, difficulty swallowing, sexual problems or cognitive changes. It is important to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about Parkinson's, ideally a neurologist. By working with a health-care team, a treatment plan can be created that will meet the person's individual needs.