Parkinson’s disease is the second most common movement disorder, occurring in one to three percent of the population. This complex disorder, thought to be multifactorial in most families, is likely caused by an interplay of both genetic and environmental factors. Some people may be the first to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in their family; others may have many family members with the disease. A number of genes have been identified as risk factors for Parkinson’s disease, with many others likely unknown.
The age of onset is typically around age 60, though the disease can occur earlier or later. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease experience malfunction and loss of cells in the brain that produce dopamine as well as changes in other brain regions.
Symptoms, age of onset and rate of progression can vary greatly from person to person. Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is made based on the presence of clinical features, including tremors, bradykinesia (slowness) and rigidity (stiff movements). People with Parkinson’s disease can also experience non-motor symptoms, including sleep disorders, mood problems and cognitive changes.
Although there is not yet a cure or way to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, medications and surgical options are available that can improve the symptoms. Lifestyle behaviors, including exercise, may help delay onset and progression.
With an interdisciplinary health care team, the Department of Neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine provides comprehensive services for people affected by Parkinson’s disease, including medical evaluation and treatment, social services, and research opportunities. In addition to medical management, this team offers botulinum toxin injections and deep brain stimulation for appropriate patients.