Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive disorder that causes you to experience certain physical and cognitive symptoms. These changes can weaken your ability to control your movements, speak, and complete daily tasks.

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. But if you or a loved one is experiencing Parkinson’s, know that you’re not alone. There are many resources and options available, and there’s a growing field of research into the disease.

Every day, researchers are studying new therapies and potential cures. Already, advancements have been made in the treatment of Parkinson’s that improve the quality of life and outlook for people.

We’ll outline some current and promising treatment approaches as well as the clinical research outlook for Parkinson’s disease.

By the numbers

Parkinson’s disease primarily affects older adults. However, while rare, early onset Parkinson’s can occur. Here’s what we know:

  • A 2020 report states that data from 2017 showed around 1 million people in the United States had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Men are 1.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women.
  • Risk increases with age.
  • In extremely rare cases, Parkinson’s can affect teens.
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While there may not be a cure for Parkinson’s disease, researchers are working every day to better understand it. This includes identifying genes and biomarkers linked to Parkinson’s disease and experimenting with new therapies.

Here’s an overview of current findings and key areas of interest.

Aiming for timely diagnosis

As with many chronic conditions, earlier recognition of Parkinson’s disease can help people experience an enhanced quality of life.

2016 statistics reflect that around 6.1 million people worldwide had Parkinson’s, more than double than in 1990. However, this increase doesn’t necessarily mean that Parkinson’s disease is more common now.

The rise could be the result of increasing awareness of the disease, causing more people to contact a doctor about potential symptoms. The global population is also skewing older, meaning more adults are in the at-risk age category for Parkinson’s disease.

A 2018 review of research findings suggests a “timely diagnosis” of Parkinson’s disease can provide the following benefits, among others:

  • support your “right to know” about the disease as soon as possible
  • enable you to take an active role in your health and well-being surrounding disease management and treatment options
  • allow you to engage with ongoing research into Parkinson’s disease
  • help you understand that the symptoms of Parkinson’s aren’t just part of aging but a specific health condition

Genes and biomarkers

Currently, many Parkinson’s treatments are intended to limit the effects of the disease’s symptoms. Researchers are aiming to develop disease-modifying drugs that can stall or limit its progression overall.

To accomplish this, researchers are attempting to identify biomarkers (quantifiable medical signs in your body) that are responsible for Parkinson’s disease progression.

Experts across the world have contributed to an Accelerating Medicines Partnership Knowledge Portal where they can share data about genetic research progress. The portal now contains genetic information from more than 4,000 people with Parkinson’s disease.

Identifying certain genes and other biomarkers responsible for Parkinson’s disease means doctors could diagnose Parkinson’s earlier or recognize who may be at risk of developing it. Scientists could also create more targeted medications and other therapies to keep the condition from worsening.

Mutations in several genes, both dominant and recessive, have been associated with the inheritance of Parkinson’s disease. Some genetic changes may also be acquired, which means that they develop during a person’s life, possibly from an environmental factor.

  • A 2019 study reports that 27 percent of those with early onset Parkinson’s disease were found to have a mutation in one or more of the following genes:
    • glucocerebrosidase (GBA)
    • leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2)
    • parkin (PARK2)
  • Other genes found to influence the development of Parkinson’s include SNCA (PARK1) and PINK1 (PARK6).
  • Most of these gene mutations result in damage to the mitochondria, which generate a cell’s energy, causing “mitochondrial dysfunction,” a known contributor to Parkinson’s development.

Genome testing is available for certain genes, but it’s not completely accurate. Having one or more of the genes is not a guarantee of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Promising therapies

Some of the key recent research on Parkinson’s disease highlighted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke includes:

  • testing whether taking calcium channel blockers could potentially reduce the risks for Parkinson’s disease development
  • investigating whether a medication called sargramostim could help to reduce the immune system response that may cause Parkinson’s disease to worsen
  • exploring if potentially less invasive methods of deep brain stimulation (such as transcranial direct current stimulation) could help people with Parkinson’s disease minimize motor problems

Researchers are examining multiple aspects of Parkinson’s disease in hopes of enhancing quality of life and minimizing the potentially harmful effects. The more we know about how and why Parkinson’s disease manifests, the faster and better doctors can manage and treat it.

At its most basic level, Parkinson’s disease damages cells in the brain called neurons. This affects production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can cause movement problems and other Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

However, while doctors have an understanding of how Parkinson’s works, they don’t know exactly what causes the disease. The prevailing theory is that multiple factors contribute to its development, including genetics and environment.

Some people do have a hereditary form of Parkinson’s disease. However, most Parkinson’s disease cases are sporadic and their underlying cause is unknown.

Doctors may use a combination of treatments to address Parkinson’s disease, and each individual responds differently. All of these treatment options are still being researched and improved.


Doctors use different medications to treat Parkinson’s disease, including:

  • carbidopa-levodopa, which helps to increase the amount of available dopamine in your brain
  • anticholinergic medications, which may reduce tremors and muscle rigidity that can occur with Parkinson’s disease
  • dopamine-mimicking medications, which are similar to dopamine in the brain, such as pramipexole, apormorphine, or ropinirole
  • amantadine, an antiviral drug that may reduce some Parkinson’s symptoms
  • catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, which can help keep your brain from breaking down dopamine, making more available
  • monoamine oxidase type B (MAO-B) inhibitors, which work on a specific enzyme that breaks down dopamine in your brain

Doctors may prescribe different medications depending on your symptoms and how you respond to particular treatments. Preexisting health conditions and any other current medications are also a factor in deciding on an approach.

Deep brain stimulation

In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease tremors. If the medication levodopa stops working for treating a person’s Parkinson’s, a doctor may recommend DBS.

The DBS process involves implanting special electrodes in portions of your brain that are thought to be responsible for affecting movement, including the subthalamic nucleus and globus pallidus.

Some people experience significant symptom relief with DBS therapy. It won’t reverse or stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease, but it can offer substantial benefits for motor coordination or tremors in particular.

DBS doesn’t work for everyone. It also requires surgery to implant the electrodes. As with any surgical procedure, this comes with risks of complications, including infection.

Diet and lifestyle changes

Additional therapies for Parkinson’s disease treatment include eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise.

Some individuals may benefit from participating in physical and occupational therapy. These therapies often focus on balance, improving your gait, or tactics to allow you to complete your work.

Other alternative options center on promoting holistic well-being while living with Parkinson’s disease. These are not shown to stop the disease’s progression but can help you manage symptoms and stay hopeful:

If you have a family history of Parkinson’s disease, you may wish to talk with a doctor about your potential risks or even explore genetic testing. However, it’s important to remember that not all people with a family history of Parkinson’s disease will be affected.

Signs of Parkinson’s disease can be different for every person. Parkinson’s is usually separated into premotor, motor, and cognitive stages. These don’t necessarily occur in a particular order, and not everyone will experience them all.

As explained by the Parkinson’s Foundation, common early symptoms include:

Knowing the signs

Talk with your doctor if you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Check out these articles for a more thorough breakdown of both common and rare symptoms, as well as complications of Parkinson’s:

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Parkinson’s disease does not currently have a cure. However, there are many treatments, including medications, DBS, and lifestyle adjustments, that can potentially minimize symptoms and enhance your quality of life.

It’s possible to get a timely diagnosis that empowers you to learn about your or your loved one’s condition and options.

A broad field of researchers and scientists are collaborating to identify biomarkers and develop more targeted therapies. Existing treatment options are still being innovated and improved upon.

We see a lot of hope for promising advancements in treating Parkinson’s disease in the future.