Parkinson’s Disease Clinic

The Movement and Inherited Neurological Disorders Unit is dedicated to comprehensive patient care of those affected by Parkinson’s disease (PD). Many of our care providers are leading the nation’s research efforts for finding treatments to slow or postpone the onset of PD. Cutting-edge clinical research is also conducted in our clinic. We also have an active Deep Brain Stimulation program.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological illness named after Dr. James Parkinson, a London physician who was the first to describe it in 1817. PD is a disorder caused by the gradual loss of cells in a small part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The loss of these cells produces a reduction in a vital chemical called “dopamine,” which causes symptoms that may include shaking hands, slow movement, stiffness, and loss of balance. Other symptoms may include loss of facial expression, reduction in speech volume and clarity, difficulty swallowing, change in size of handwriting, dry skin, constipation, urinary difficulties, and depression. Because PD is a progressive disorder, these symptoms worsen with time.

Who Gets Parkinson’s Disease?

Estimates vary, but it is thought that about one million people in the United States have PD. Although the illness most often affects older individuals, particularly those over the age of 55, PD may also affect people in their 30’s and 40’s. PD appears to be slightly more common in men than in women. Various studies have suggested that PD may be more common in certain ethnic groups or in certain regions of the world, but these results are hard to interpret in light of regional and ethnic variations in mortality, perceptions of illness, and access to health care.

PD has become one of the most common ailments in North America. There are several reasons for this:

  • People are living longer. The average life span has increased from 50 years in 1900 to 75 years in 1986. As PD is generally an illness of middle and later years, it is not surprising that the number of older people with PD is increasing. The longer you live, the greater your chances of developing PD.
  • The “baby boomers” are aging. As the proportion of Americans over the age of 55 grows, so will the proportion of Americans with PD.

Although it causes disability, PD does not appear to significantly shorten the lifespan of its sufferers. PD can be thought of as an illness that people live with, rather than die from.

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