What is Parkinson’s disease? 7 things to know

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What is Parkinson’s disease? 7 things to know

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Friday that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

"My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago," the longtime civil rights activist wrote in a statement. "After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson's disease, a disease that bested my father."

Jackson said he sees the diagnosis as “a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease's progression.”

Here are seven things to know about Parkinson’s disease, according to the Mayo Clinic:

What is it?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It involves certain nerve cells (or neurons) in the brain that gradually break down or die. The disease often causes tremors, stiffness or slowness. Symptoms worsen over time.

What are the symptoms?

The following is a list of common signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s:

  • tremor
  • slowed movement
  • rigid muscles
  • impaired posture and balance
  • loss of automatic movements (decreased ability to perform movements like blinking, smiling, swinging arms while walking)
  • speech changes (softer, more quickly, slurred speech etc.)
  • writing changes (harder to write, smaller writing)

What causes Parkinson’s?

Many symptoms associated with the disease are due to a loss of neurons produced by dopamine in your brain. When dopamine decreases, it can cause abnormal brain activity, leading to signs of Parkinson’s disease.

But the root cause of the disease is unknown. There are, however, several factors that play a role, including genetics and environmental triggers, such as toxins.

Are some people at higher risk?

Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women, according to the Parkinson’s Association.

Incidence also increases with age. People usually develop Parkinson’s around age 60 or older.

Genetics also plays a big role. Having a close relative with the disease increases chances, but the risks are small unless there are multiple relatives with the disease.

Is there a cure?

No, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but medications can certainly help control symptoms. 

What is the treatment like?

Treatment for symptom management includes medicines that increase dopamine levels in the brain.

Some medicines include Levodopa, Duopa or Mirapex.

In some cases, a patient may undergo surgery, or deep brain stimulation. In DBS, surgeons implant electrodes into a specific region in your brain. These electrodes send electrical pulses to the brain and can reduce symptoms.

How many people have Parkinson’s disease?

According to the Parkinson’s Association, an estimated seven to 10 million people in the world are living with the disease.

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