Parkinson's disease affects one in 100 people over the age of 60. Symptoms range from tremor, rigidity and slow movements to lethargy, masked face and sleep disturbance. Although the cause is unknown, treatments include medication, surgery and multidisciplinary therapy.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological condition that affects the control of body movements. It is not contagious and not fatal. It is thought to be genetic in a very small percentage of cases.
Symptoms result from the progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the middle area of the brain. This causes a deficiency in the availability of dopamine, a chemical messenger necessary for smooth, controlled movements. The symptoms of Parkinson’s appear when about 70 per cent of the dopamine producing cells cease to function normally.
A common disease
It is estimated that approximately four people per 1,000 have Parkinson’s in Australia, with the incidence increasing to one in 100 over the age of 60. In Australia there are approximately 80,000 people living with Parkinson’s, with one in five people with Parkinson’s being diagnosed before the age of 50 years. More than 2,225 new cases are diagnosed in Victoria every year
Physical symptoms vary
The type, number, severity and progression of symptoms varies greatly between individuals. No two people are affected in the same way. Some of the main symptoms are:
- Tremor (shaking)
- Rigidity (muscle stiffness)
- Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
- Stooped posture
- Shuffling gait
- Micrographia (small handwriting)
Causes are unknown
At present there is no known cause. Research worldwide is investigating possible causes including:
- Pesticides, toxins, chemicals
- Genetic factors
- Head trauma.
Management of Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s is managed by:
- Multidisciplinary therapy (physiotherapists, dietitians, counsellors).
Where to get help
- Your neurologist
- Your doctor
- Parkinson’s Victoria Tel. 1800 644 189
- Parkinson’s support groups
- Movement disorder programs
- Community services at your local council
- Independent Living Centre Tel. (03) 9362 6111
Where carers can get help
- All of the above
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- The Brain Foundation Tel. 1800 677 579
Things to remember
- Parkinson’s is a manageable condition.
- The symptoms of Parkinson’s vary in number, type, severity and progression.
- No two people will experience the condition the same way, so management will also vary.
You might also be interested in:
- Acquired brain injury.
- Essential tremor.
- Myasthenia gravis.
- Nervous system.
- Parkinson's disease - treatment.
- Parkinson's disease and constipation.
- Parkinson's disease and exercise.
- Parkinson's disease and going to hospital.
- Parkinson's disease and sexual issues.
Want to know more?
Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
(Logo links to further information)
Parkinson's Victoria Inc
Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: June 2011
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Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your qualified health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residence and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.
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