Parkinson’s disease is a gradually progressive degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called movement disorders. There are four characteristic problems caused by Parkinson’s disease, including tremor at rest, balance problems, stiffness, and slowness of movement.

The Central Nervous System

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Parkinson’s disease occurs when areas of the brain, including an area called the substantia nigra, is slowly destroyed. The exact reason for this destruction is not completely known. In some patients, it may be due to genetic, environmental, or a combination of both causes. The end result is a deprivation in the brain of an important neurochemical, called dopamine. Dopamine helps regulate movement, and its loss leads to increased tone, rigidity, and slowness of movement. Lack of dopamine results in the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year. Ninety-five percent of those diagnosed are over 50 years old. At any given time, about 500,000 people, or one percent of those over age 50 in the United States are struggling with this condition.