Parkinson's Disease Overview


  • PD is the second most common brain disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The cells that produce dopamine, a brain chemical important to movement and mood, slowly die off.
  • The decrease in dopamine causes both motor and non-motor symptoms.
  • PD slowly progresses as more cells stop functioning.



  • Tremor or rhythmic shaking of arms, legs, chin, or lip
  • Slow, small, and stiff movement
  • Shuffling gait
  • Impaired balance and falls
  • Soft or hoarse voice


  • Neuropsychiatric
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Apathy
    • Late symptoms
      • Hallucinations
      • Delusions
      • Dementia
  • Autonomic abnormalities
    • Read the website document Autonomic Abnormalities for more information.
  • Sleep disorders
    • Insomnia
    • Excessive sleep
    • Sleep apnea
    • Nightmares
    • Acting out dreams including screaming, kicking, and punching


  • Advancing age with average onset in the 60’s
  • 5-10% of people with PD have a family history
  • Repeated head trauma
  • REM behavior disorder


  • A diagnosis is usually made by looking for the key motor symptoms and ruling out other conditions, such as:
  • Multiple strokes
  • Exposure to certain toxins
  • Some psychiatric medications
  • A DaTscan is a special brain scan that can help diagnose PD.


  • Motor symptoms are treated with medications that mimic dopamine.
  • Non-motor symptoms are treated in various ways.
  • Exercise is essential for managing the motor symptoms and can slow the progression of PD.