Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know I have Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson's disease can affect anyone - male or female and at any age, although it is more common in older age. The four key symptoms are tremor, slowness of movement, muscle rigidity and instability. However the nature and severity of symptoms can vary considerably from one individual to another. In the early stages of the disease, symptoms can be vague and non-specific such as constipation, loss of smell, fatigue or muscle pain.

What will my doctor do if Parkinson's is suspected?

Your family doctor may order some tests to exclude other possible causes of your symptoms; however, there is no definitive test for Parkinson's disease. A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease relies very much on the symptoms.  You may also be referred to a neurologist who specialises in movement disorders for assessment.

What causes Parkinson's disease?

We understand that the cells in a particular part of the brain die off, causing a reduction in the level of the brain chemical dopamine. This primarily affects movement and coordination. There are several theories on what causes Parkinson's; however, at this time we do not have a clear picture of what triggers this dying off process and why some people are affected and others are not. For this reason, there are no clues to preventing Parkinson's disease.

Is Parkinson's disease hereditary?

The short answer is no. Although it is believed in about 10 per cent of people with Parkinson's disease that there is a genetic component and they will have a relative who is also affected, the vast majority do not. You should not worry about having passed the disease on to your children. Like many other diseases, Parkinson's disease is thought to be the result of a complex interaction between both genetic and environmental factors.

Is there a cure?

Not yet. Parkinson's disease is usually slowly progressive and is incurable. However, there are a variety of medications and treatments that can help control or reduce the symptoms of Parkinson's.  Many people with Parkinson's disease live full and productive lives.  Parkinson's Australia is working with researchers and others in the community to help find a cure.

I take my prescribed medications, what else can I do?

Become well informed about your condition. Symptoms can fluctuate widely from day to day, in different situations and in response to different medications. It is also important to stay as active as possible. Don't give up on daily activities and incorporate some regular exercise into your life.

Where can I get help?

The best place to start looking for help is contact your State Parkinson's organisation who can assist you with information, education and support. 

Neurologists, Geriatricians, physiotherapists, occupational therapies and speech therapists who have training in movement disorders are amongst those who can provide professional advice on managing your condition.

Many people also benefit from talking to other people who are similarly affected with the disease. Parkinson's Australis State organisations can put you in contact with other individuals or support groups in your area and provide you with information on Parkinson's.

How can I help someone with Parkinson's disease?

You may need some support if you are living with or caring for someone with Parkinson's disease. Depending on your circumstances, the stage of their disease and their ability to function independently, you may just need information to help you understand the disease. Later, there may be a need for advice and practical support with the physical demands of caring for someone with a progressively disabling disease. Consider also your own personal needs and seek counselling if necessary.