Although Parkinson’s creates an array of symptoms that can be felt throughout the body, it’s primarily a disorder of a tiny area of the brain called the substantia nigra pars compacta.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that gets progressively worse over time. The condition is caused by the destruction of nerve cells in an area of the brain that controls movement.
In addition to movement, Parkinson’s can also affect your mood, behavior, and memory because the neurons that are destroyed produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that influences pleasure and motivation.
This article reviews the specific areas of the brain that are affected by Parkinson’s disease, and the symptoms that might develop as a result.
Facts about Parkinson’s disease
About 1 million people in the United States are living with . Worldwide, Parkinson’s affects more than 10 million people. That number is expected to increase to 1.2 million by 2030.
Most people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s after age 60. Approximately
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that results from the destruction of brain cells. As the brain cells (neurons) are destroyed, signals that regulate movement are disrupted.
The neurons destroyed in Parkinson’s disease help to produce neurotransmitters, like
The area of the brain most affected in the development of Parkinson’s is the
Basal ganglia are the specific type of neurons affected by Parkinson’s disease. They play a large role in movement and motor function, but also play a role in memory, emotions, and behaviors.
There have also been some studies showing that for some people with Parkinson’s disease, loss of tissue can occur in the
Dementia is a generic term that describes a loss of cognitive function from neuron damage or loss. Cognitive function can refer to a variety of mental abilities such as reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, and decision-making.
Within the category of dementia, there are several specific types based on the disease process or condition that it’s caused by. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, caused by a buildup of protein.
Lewy body dementia is the common form of dementia in people with Parkinson’s disease. It results from deposits of Lewy body proteins. Lewy body dementia begins with symptoms of dementia before Parkinson’s disease symptoms begin.
- frontotemporal dementia
- vascular dementia
- mixed dementia
Parkinson’s symptoms aren’t the same for everyone. There are several physical, emotional, and cognitive changes that you could develop as a result of this condition.
Physical symptoms can include:
- slow movements
- poor balance
- stooped posture
- an unsteady gait
- voice changes
- diminished facial expression
Other changes that may be less visible but impact your mood, behavior, or function, can include:
- dry skin
- sleep problems
- excessive or lack of sweating
There’s no singular treatment for Parkinson’s disease, and the condition can’t be cured entirely. Treatments tend to focus on replacing or stimulating the production of neurotransmitters, like dopamine, or helping to control abnormal movements.
Levodopa is the primary medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and it helps brain cells produce more dopamine. It’s usually combined with carbidopa, a medication that keeps your body from breaking down levodopa before it reaches the brain.
Although these medications are known to cause side effects, they remain the leading treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Other treatments additional
- dopamine agonists
- enzyme inhibitors
Deep brain stimulation may also be used to stimulate specific areas of the brain in an effort to stop abnormal movements.
- physical therapy
- nutritional support
- massage therapy
Resources for people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers
Your healthcare professional, health insurance company, local health department, and various health and community organizations can all be sources of information and support.
Below are links to several support groups and organizations that can provide help if you or someone you love or care for has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease:
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurologic disease that can cause movement problems, as well as mood or behavior changes. The condition involves the destruction of certain neurons and a deficiency of certain neurotransmitters in the brain and is not curable.
There are treatments that can help you address the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Work with a doctor to develop a care plan that’s right for you. It’s also worth contacting organizations that offer support and resources for people with Parkinson’s and those that are taking care of them.