Parkinson’s disease is named after Dr James Parkinson, who published An Essay on the Shaking Palsy in London in 1817.
Parkinson’s is the second most common degenerative neurological condition in Australia after Alzheimer’s disease. Parkinson’s destroys brain cells in the substantia nigra, which is responsible for the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine helps transmit signals from the brain that control movement, balance and coordination.
The most effective medication for controlling Parkinson’s is levodopa, which brain cells use to produce dopamine. Levodopa is often used in combination with other drugs, such as carbidopa. This lessens its side effects and helps the body to process the medication more efficiently.
The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s are:
- shaking or tremor
- rigidity or muscle stiffness
- difficulty in and/or slowness of movement
- freezing—inability to move
- a shuffling gait.
Parkinson’s is a progressive and potentially incapacitating condition. Fortunately this is usually a slow process, allowing individuals and their families to plan for the future. There is currently no cure or treatment to slow its progression, but medication, therapies and surgery can help to control its symptoms.
Parkinson’s need not be a sentence to inactivity, and does not usually prevent the activities of daily life. People with Parkinson’s can, with support, maintain a useful and enjoyable lifestyle.
More information is available in a series of fact sheets on the Parkinson’s Victoria website.