What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson's disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement, muscle control, and balance as well as numerous other functions. It is part of a group of conditions known as motor systems disorders. Parkinson's disease was named for James Parkinson, a general practitioner in London during the 19th century who first described the symptoms of the disease. Symptoms describing Parkinson's disease are mentioned in the writings of medicine in India dating back to 5,000 BCE as well as in Chinese writings dating back approximately 2500 years. Parkinson's disease is the most common movement disorder and the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, the most common being Alzheimer's disease.
The hallmark symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD) are asymmetric tremors at rest, rigidity, and bradykinesia (slowness in movement). There is currently no cure for Parkinson's disease; it is always chronic and progressive, meaning that the symptoms always exist and always worsen over time. The rate of progression varies from person to person, as does the intensity of the symptoms. Parkinson's disease itself is not a fatal disease and many people live into their older years. Mortality of Parkinson's disease patients is usually related to secondary complications, such as pneumonia or falling-related injuries.
There are three types of Parkinson's disease and they are grouped by age of onset:
Adult-Onset Parkinson's Disease - This is the most common type of Parkinson's disease. The average age of onset is approximately 60 years old. The incidence of adult onset PD rises noticeably as people advance in age into their 70's and 80's.
Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease - The age of onset is between 21-40 years old. Though the incidence of Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease is very high in Japan (approximately 40% of cases diagnosed with Parkinson's disease), it is still relatively uncommon in the U.S., with estimates ranging from 5-10% of cases diagnosed.
Juvenile Parkinson's Disease - The age of onset is before the age of 21. The incidence of Juvenile Parkinson's Disease is very rare.
Parkinson's disease can significantly impair quality of life not only for the patients but for their families as well, and especially for the primary caregivers. It is therefore important for caregivers and family members to educate themselves and become familiar with the course of Parkinson's disease and the progression of symptoms so that they can be actively involved in communication with health care providers and in understanding all decisions regarding treatment of the patient.
According to the American Parkinson's Disease Association, there are approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. who suffer from Parkinson's disease - approximately 1-2% of people over the age of 60 and 3-5% of the population over age 85. The incidence of PD ranges from 8.6-19 per 100,000 people. Approximately 50,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. annually. That number is is expected to rise as the general population in the U.S. ages. Onset of Parkinson's disease before the age of 40 is rare. All races and ethnic groups are affected.expected to rise as the general population in the U.S. ages. Onset of Parkinson's disease before the age of 40 is rare. All races and ethnic groups are affected.
Parkinson’s Disease Guidebook -