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Parkinson Disease

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is Parkinson disease (PD)?

PD is a long-term movement disorder. The brain cells that control movement start to die and cause changes in how you move, feel, and act. Even though PD may progress and have a severe impact on your daily life, it is not a life-threatening disease.

What causes PD?

The exact cause of PD is not known. It may be caused by a problem with how your brain works. A chemical called dopamine helps your brain control your movement, thoughts, and feelings. PD causes brain cells that make dopamine to die, so they cannot make enough dopamine.

What increases my risk for PD?

  • Age 60 years or older
  • A family history of PD
  • Exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides or herbicides

What are the signs and symptoms of PD?

Symptoms often get worse over time. You may have any of the following:

  • Tremors (shaking) that go away when you move or sleep
  • Trouble moving or getting up from a seated position
  • Trouble with small movements, such as buttoning clothing or eating
  • Less blinking and facial emotion
  • Joint stiffness and jerky movement
  • Trouble keeping your balance when standing or changing positions
  • Shuffling or hunched position while walking
  • Trouble speaking and writing

How is PD diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms. He or she will ask about your medical history and if you have family members with PD. He or she will examine you and may move your arms or legs to test your muscles. He or she may check your balance and the way you walk.

How is PD treated?

PD cannot be cured. The goal of treatment is to help manage your symptoms. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be used to improve movement problems, such as muscle stiffness, twitches, and restlessness. Your healthcare provider may use several types of medicine to help manage your symptoms.
  • Botulinum toxin helps control problems such as tremors, bladder or bowel problems, trouble swallowing, and drooling.
  • Surgery may be used to place an electrical device inside your brain during surgery called deep brain stimulation. Deep brain stimulation may help to decrease symptoms, such as tremor and rigidity. When the device is in your brain, you may turn the device on or off whenever you want.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I manage PD?

  • Do not eat foods that are high in protein or dairy. They can cause problems with how some of your medicine works. Ask your healthcare provider how much protein and dairy is safe to eat. He or she may tell you to eat foods high in fiber to make it easier to have a bowel movement. Examples are cereals, beans, vegetables, and whole-grain breads. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

  • Do not drive unless your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Exercise as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. This may help you control your body movements, and keep your balance.
    Tai Chi for Seniors
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about therapy. He or she may recommend any of the following:
    • Occupational therapy is used to teach skills that help with daily activities. Your occupational therapist may help you choose equipment to help you at home and work. He or she can also suggest ways to keep your home and workplace safe.
    • Speech therapy may be used to help improve your ability to talk or swallow.
    • Mental healthy therapy can be used to help you talk about your feeling about PD. Your family members may attend meetings to learn new ways to take better care of both you and themselves.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • American Parkinson Disease Association
    135 Parkinson Ave.
    Staten Island , NY 10305
    Phone: 1- 718 - 981-8001
    Web Address:
  • National Parkinson Foundation
    1501 N.W. 9th Avenue / Bob Hope Road
    Miami, Florida , 33136-1494
    1501 N.W. 9th Avenue / Bob Hope Road
    Miami, Florida , 33136-1494
    Phone: 1- 305 - 243-6666
    Phone: 1- 800 - 327-4545
    Web Address:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You feel like hurting yourself or others.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You become confused, or you have trouble speaking.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You feel lightheaded, dizzy, or faint.
  • You have weakness in an arm or leg.
  • You have dizziness, a severe headache, or vision changes.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You are not sleeping well or you sleep more than usual.
  • You cannot eat or are eating more than usual.
  • You feel that your condition is getting worse.
  • You have new symptoms since your last appointment.
  • Your sad feelings or thoughts change the way you function during the day.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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Further information

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