Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that can affect people from all walks of life.
What is it
Parkinson’s is a condition where a neurotransmitter called dopamine is not produced at adequate levels in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay messages between cells in your brain.
Dopamine is used by many areas of your brain, but it is particularly important in controlling movement. Motor symptoms may include muscle rigidity, tremor, postural instability and bradykinesia (slowness of movement).
How it affects the body
Dopamine is responsible for a person’s physical movement, but it also affects how someone learns and behaves.
Dopamine has an enormous job of regulating mood, behaviour, sleep, cognition, motivation and reward. This can affect someone’s levels of depression, anxiety and apathy – some of the most common non-movement symptoms. Others include loss of smell, small handwriting, soft voice and memory changes.
About 100,000 people in Australia are living with Parkinson’s, with 10-20% of these aged under 50 with Young Onset Parkinson’s.
Many people think of tremor in Parkinson's, but tremor is not present in around 30% of cases.
Treatment and cause
Parkinson’s presents differently in each person, so not everyone will have the same symptoms or progression, or the same treatment and wellbeing plan.
The cause of Parkinson’s is not yet known but it is likely a complex relationship between genetic and environmental factors.
The underlying cause of Parkinson’s symptoms relates to a decline in the production of a chemical in the brain called dopamine.
Dopamine is an important chemical messenger, or neurotransmitter, that allows messages to be passed between cells in the brain.
This lack of dopamine means people can have difficulty controlling their movements or moving freely. It can also impact other body systems such as your sense of smell, bowel function, thinking and mood.
It is not easy to diagnose Parkinson’s. There is no standard blood test or brain scan, so it is important that the diagnosis is made by a specialist, such as a neurologist, based on clinical signs and symptoms.
Motor and non-motor symptoms
Parkinson’s has both motor and non-motor symptoms, which often develop slowly and progress over time.
Motor symptoms may include muscle rigidity, tremor, postural instability and bradykinesia (slowness of movement).
Non-motor symptoms may include pain, sensory changes, changes in the gastrointestinal system, depression and problems with memory, thinking and sleep.
Each person is affected differently and the rate of progression varies greatly between individuals.
It is possible to live with Parkinson’s for a long time, although symptoms do get worse over time. Treatments can assist in managing your symptoms and providing a high quality of life for many years to come.
Parkinson’s is very individual; signs and symptoms can be different for everyone.
We rely on the generous support of individuals and businesses to help us continue our work to support and advocate for the Parkinson’s community. When you give to our charity you can feel proud knowing your donation is helping to provide essential support and information to people living with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders, their carers, family, community and health professionals.