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Parkinson Disease

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Parkinson Disease

(PD; Paralysis Agitans; Shaking Palsy)


Parkinson disease (PD) is a brain disorder that causes tremors and problems moving.

Part of the Brain Affected by PD—Yellow Section.

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Dopamine is a chemical in the brain. It helps people move and control their emotions. PD is caused by a loss of brain cells that make dopamine. It is not known why this happens.

A small number of people with PD have an early-onset form. This type is often caused by a gene problem. It may be passed down from parents.

Risk Factors

PD is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Family members with PD
  • Exposure to toxins, such as well water and pesticides


Symptoms start slowly and get worse over time. A person may have:

  • Tremors that are worse at rest
  • Muscle stiffness or moving slowly
  • Problems doing tasks with the hands, activities of daily living, or problems moving, such as taking smaller steps and shuffling
  • Fatigue or sleep problems
  • Pain
  • Mood swings or problems thinking
  • Perceiving things that are not there or believing things that are not based in reality
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation or problems with urine and bowel control


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Symptoms may be enough to make the diagnosis.

Images may be taken to rule out other causes. Tests may be:


There is no cure. Treatment is aimed at managing symptoms.


There are no current guidelines to prevent PD.


Medicines that may be used to ease symptoms are:

  • Levodopa-carbidopa to treat tremors and problems moving
  • Dopamine agonists
  • Monoamine oxidase type B inhibitors
  • Anticholinergics
  • COMT inhibitors
  • Antivirals

Medicine may also be given to ease symptoms of depression.





  • Burbulla, L.F., Song, P., Mazulli, J.R. Dopamine oxidation mediates mitochondrial and lysosomal dysfunction in Parkinsons disease. Science, 2017; 357 (6357): 1255-61.
  • Goldman, J.G., Holden, S.K. Cognitive syndromes associated with movement disorders. Continuum (Minneap Minn). 2022; 28 (3): 726-749.
  • Homayoun, H. Parkinson Disease. Ann Intern Med, 2018; 169 (5): ITC33-ITC48.
  • Managing & lifestyle. Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website. Available at: https://www.parkinson.org/living-with-Parkinsons/management.
  • Michels, K., Dubaz, O., et al. "Dance Therapy" as a psychotherapeutic movement intervention in Parkinson's disease. Complement Ther Med. 2018; 40: 248-252.
  • Parkinson's disease. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Parkinsons-Disease.
  • Parkinson disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/parkinson-disease.
  • Parkinson's disease information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/parkinsons-disease.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.