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What Is Parkinson's Disease

What do Michael J. Fox and Janet Reno have in common?† They have both shown that people can be successful in high-powered, demanding positions despite having Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurologic disorder.

There is no cure for Parkinson's disease . . .yet.† But doctors and researchers are optimistic.† In the meantime, medical and surgical treatments can help control symptoms such as severe movement difficulties.

Parkinson's disease is caused by brain cell death of an unknown cause in an area called the substantia nigra.† These cells make dopamine, the chemical that controls muscle movement.† The resulting symptoms include resting tremors, slow, labored movement, muscle rigidity, and loss of balance and coordination.† Other common symptoms include stooped posture, loss of facial expression, a "shuffling" walk, depression, and impaired speech.

Most patients are over 65; only one in 20 patients with Parkinson's disease develop it before age 45.† Combination drug therapy is generally effective for about 10 years, after which surgery may be appropriate.

Created: 4/26/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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