skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological condition. It affects 145,000 people in the UK - or around one in 350 of the population. The main symptoms are tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity.  Some people with Parkinson's disease also experience a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms, including depression, anxiety, balance problems, loss of sense of smell, sleep problems, memory problems, etc. Most people with Parkinson's start to develop symptoms above the age of 50, although around 5% of patients first experience symptoms before 40.

Parkinson’s disease involves gradual loss of nerve cells in a brain region called substantia nigra producing dopamine, a chemical needed to control body movement. A reduction in dopamine is responsible for symptoms of Parkinson's to appear. Beside the cell loss, the same brain region is also characterised by the presence of Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites which are protein clumps mainly composed of a protein called alpha-synuclein known to have a key role in Parkinson’s progression.

Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear.  It is estimated that Parkinson's may have a genetic cause in around 5% of cases. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible. There is some evidence that environmental factors such as toxins or traumatic brain injury may cause dopamine-producing neurons to die, leading to the development of Parkinson's as the person ages and more of these neurons are lost. In particular, there has been a great deal of speculation about the link between the use of herbicides and pesticides and the development of Parkinson's.

Although there's currently no cure for Parkinson's, there are treatments available to help reduce the main symptoms and prolong quality of life.