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Parkinson’s Awareness Month

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. It is the birth month of James Parkinson, who first presented the symptoms of the disease identified over 200 years ago. 

With nearly 90,000 people in the United States diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year, it is important that we recognize how it affects the lives of those who are battling the condition as well as the lives of their loved ones. 

What is Parkinson’s Disease? 

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system. It occurs when nerve cells (neurons) in the brain that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger responsible for coordinating movement, become damaged or die. It primarily impacts movement.  

The exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, however, a combination of genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role. 

-Parkinson’s Foundation

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s? 

Parkinson’s can present itself with a variety of symptoms including: 

  • Tremors in hands, legs, arms, jaw and head.
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Slower movement
  • Stooped posture

Patients may also experience cognitive changes, including loss of memory, attention and executive function. 

How is Parkinson’s diagnosed? 

While there is no medical test that will test for Parkinson’s specifically, a neurologist will review a patient’s medical history and symptoms before conducting a neurological and physical exam to determine if they have the condition. 

What is the treatment for Parkinson’s? 

While there is no known cure for Parkinson’s, there are medications that are used to treat the disease. Doctors may prescribe their patient’s medication that increases dopamine levels and anti-tremor medication to alleviate the symptoms. 

They also may prescribe antidepressants if the patient’s mental health declines as a result of the disease.

parkinson's disease
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