What is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that affects a patient's ability to produce and control body movement. It is chronic (persisting over a long period of time) and progressive (getting worse over time). Usually affecting older adults, Parkinson's leads to severe disability for some people, but others may suffer only minor motor disorders.

In Parkinson's disease, a loss of neurons in the brain results in a reduction of the amount of dopamine, a chemical messenger that helps control muscle movement. Without dopamine, nerve cells cannot properly send messages.

What Is Parkinsonism?

Parkinsonism refers to any condition that involves the types of movement changes seen in Parkinson's disease, such as tremors, slow movement, impaired speech, decrease in facial expressions, and muscle stiffness.

These movements are caused by changes in or destruction of nerve cells that produce the chemical dopamine in a certain area of the brain.

Not all patients who have Parkinsonism have Parkinson's disease. Parkinsonian disorders may be caused by other conditions like:

  • meningitis
  • encephalitis
  • progressive supranuclear palsy
  • stroke
  • caused by certain medications

Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's symptoms manifest differently in patients. Many patients experience some symptoms and not others, and the pace at which the disease progresses varies on an individual basis. Early symptoms of may be mild and go unnoticed.

Parkinson's signs and symptoms may include

  • Tremors - often the affected body part trembles when it is not doing work and it usually subsides when a person begins an action. Tremors typically affect one side of the body and spread to the other side of the body as the disease progresses.
  • Bradykenesia (slow movement)
  • Rigidity - stiffness or inflexibility of the muscles
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Dystonia
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired gross motor coordination
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Stooped posture
  • Sleep disruption

Treatment

There is no known cure for Parkinson's disease. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms.

Once a diagnosis is made, the medical team employs the most advanced treatment options available, including deep brain stimulation for surgery to treat essential tremor, Parkinson's disease and dystonia. Therapeutic goals are symptom-driven and focused on maintaining patients at the highest level of function possible. Medical regimens are tailored to patient age, prominent symptoms and the potential side effects profile.

Patients are advised to work closely with a physician to develop the best medical treatment program including medications which control symptoms mostly by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. Never change or stop taking any medication without talking with your physician.

Dr. Saman Javedan on Houston Life

Learn how deep brain stimulation surgery can help patients with Parkinson’s disease.

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Movement Disorders & Neurodegenerative Diseases Program

Through collaboration between the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann and the UT MOVE Clinic at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) , the Movement Disorders and Neurodegenerative Diseases Program has established a track record of outstanding care and excellent outcomes.

The medical staff uses state-of-the-art techniques in the diagnosis, evaluation, management and treatment of adult and geriatric patients.

Parkinson's Research

The physician team is also at the forefront of research, currently focusing on disease pathogenesis and neuromodulation with the ultimate goal of identifying new medical and surgical interventions.

Scope of Practice

  • Movement disorders
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Trauma-induced movement disorders
  • Spasticity from stroke and other neurologic conditions

Movement Disorders Treatment Options

The movement disorders team at Memorial Hermann performs the following therapeutic interventions:

Learn more about Rehabilitation for Parkinson's and Movement Disorders »

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