Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative condition – an illness that affects nerve cells in the brain that control movement. Parkinson’s is a progressive illness, which means symptoms appear gradually and slowly get worse. It is named after James Parkinson, the London doctor who first reported the symptoms in 1817.
Parkinson’s affects people of all races and cultures. Around 6.3 million people have the condition worldwide – that’s less than one percent of the total population. Most people who get Parkinson’s are over 60, but one in ten are under 50. Slightly more men than women are affected.
Everyone with Parkinson’s has different symptoms, but the most common symptoms are tremor, muscle rigidity and slowness of movement. All of these are related to movement and are called motor symptoms. Many people with Parkinson’s also experience other problems not related to movement, such as pain, anxiety and depression. These are called non-motor symptoms.
Parkinson’s is difficult to diagnose because there is no specific test for the condition. The symptoms of Parkinson’s vary from person to person and a number of other illnesses have similar symptoms. For these reasons misdiagnoses are sometimes made.
If you suspect you, or someone you know has Parkinson’s, it is important to see a doctor or neurologist (a doctor who specialises in diseases of the nervous system) soon. Sometimes diagnosis can be confirmed quickly, but it can take months or even years. Sometimes several examinations will be needed for a diagnosis to be confirmed.
A possible diagnosis of Parkinson’s may be confirmed when other conditions with similar symptoms have been ruled out, or if the person responds positively to medication for Parkinson’s.
Early treatment depends on early diagnosis, so it is important to take note of the early symptoms of Parkinson’s and seek medical advice as soon as possible.n, anxiety and depression.
Parkinson’s is a progressive illness, with symptoms gradually growing worse over time. This process is usually very gradual. Many people with Parkinson’s believe they had the condition for some time – often two to three years – before they sought a formal diagnosis. Often it is only when symptoms become obvious or start to interfere with daily life that people visit the doctor.
Symptoms and responses to treatment vary from person to person, so it is not possible to accurately predict how Parkinson’s will progress. For some people it may take many years for the condition to develop, for others it may take less time.
A number of rating scales are used to measure progression in Parkinson’s, for example the Hoehn and Yahr scale which categorises the severity of motor symptoms based on how they affect an individual’s mobility. Often more than one scale is used to give a broader picture. Motor (movement) scales are the best-known and most widely used, but non-motor symptom scales are equally important.
We would like to thank EPDA for providing this content.