What is Parkinson's?
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects people from all walks of life. It is quite common, with approximately 70,000 Australians living with Parkinson’s.
The average age of diagnosis is 65 years, however younger people can be diagnosed with Parkinson’s too. This is referred to as Young Onset Parkinson’s.
It is not easy to diagnose Parkinson’s. There are no laboratory tests (such as a blood test or brain scan), so it is important that the diagnosis
is made by a specialist, such as a neurologist. The specialist will examine for any physical signs of Parkinson’s and take a detailed history
What causes Parkinson’s?
Currently there is no known cause of understanding of why a person develops Parkinson’s. Possible causes or contributing factors may include genetic changes, environment factors, oxidative stress or a combination of these. There are many theories as to the causes and it is generally thought that multiple factors are responsible.
Through research, our understanding of the possible causes of Parkinson’s is increasing all of the time.
What causes Parkinson’s symptoms?
The underlying cause of Parkinson’s symptoms relates to a decline in the production of a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine is an important chemical messenger, or neurotransmitter, that allows messages to be passed between cells in the brain. Many of the cells which produce dopamine are in the Basal Ganglia located in the middle of the brain and it is these cells that are reduced in Parkinson's. This lack of dopamine means people can have difficulty controlling their movements and moving freely and it can also impact on other body systems such as your sense of smell, bowel and your thinking and mood.
Parkinson’s is categorised by clinicians as a “movement disorder” and symptoms may include muscle rigidity, tremor, postural instability and bradykinesia (slowness of movement). Many people think of tremor in Parkinsons but in around 30% of cases tremor is not present.
Parkinson's it doesn’t just affect movement. Non-motor symptoms such as pain, depression and problems with memory and sleep can also occur and have an impact on the day to day life of the person with Parkinson’s.
Progression of Parkinson’s
Symptoms of Parkinson’s usually develop slowly and gradually progress over time. Each person is affected differently and the rate of progression varies greatly between individuals.
Parkinson’s usually doesn’t directly cause people to die and it is possible to live with Parkinson’s for a long time, although symptoms do get worse over time.
There is currently no known cure. However, there are many treatments available that can allow a person with Parkinson’s to lead a fulfilling and productive life. Treatments can assist in managing your symptoms and providing a high quality of life for many years to come.
Support for people with Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s State Organisations are available throughout Australia to support people living with Parkinson’s from recently diagnosed through to advanced Parkinson’s, along with family, carers and health professionals.
For more information
For more information see our Information Sheets and for information and support please contact your State Parkinson’s organisation by clicking on the state link on the top right hand corner of this website or by ringing the Info line on 1800 644 189.
You are not alone – we are in this together.