Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects between one and one-and-a-half million Americans. It is classified as a progressive neurological disorder that results from degeneration of nerve cell in the region of the brain that controls movement. This degeneration creates a shortage of neurotransmitters known as dopamine, causing impaired movement. Because it is not contagious and is not required to be reported by physicians, the number of those affected by the disease is often underestimated. Parkinson's may appear at any age, but it is uncommon in people younger than 30, and the risk of developing it increases with age. It occurs in all parts of the world, and men are affected slightly more often than women. .
Following is a list of the primary symptoms of Parkinson's disease. .
• Rigidity is an increased stiffness in the muscles. Unless it is temporarily eased by anti-Parkinson's medications, rigidity is always present. However, it increases during movement. It is often responsible for a mask-like expression of the face. In some patients, rigidity leads to sensations of pain, especially in the arms and shoulders. .
• Tremor is the symptom the public most often identifies with Parkinson's, but in fact, up to 25% of patients experience very slight tremor or none at all. When it is present, the tremor may be worse on one side of the body. Besides affecting the limbs, it sometimes involves the head, neck, face, and jaw. .
• Bradykinesia means slowness of movement. This symptom is characterized by a delay in initiating movements, caused by the brain's slowness in transmitting the necessary instructions to the appropriate parts of the body. When the instructions have been received, the body responds slowly in carrying them out. .
• Poor balance tends to affect people with Parkinson's. This is particularly true when they move abruptly, causing a sudden change in the position of their bodies.