Understanding Parkinson’s Disease – World Parkinson’s Day (April 11th)

April 11 2021

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a condition that affects movement. People with Parkinson’s have problems controlling the muscles of the body due to a breakdown of messages from the brain. We do not know its causes, but people with Parkinson’s have low levels of a brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine helps the brain to control the muscles and move the body smoothly and easily. Over time, people with Parkinson’s have less and less dopamine, making movement more and more difficult. Parkinson’s progresses slowly. It may take many years before symptoms begin to cause major problems with daily life. When they do, many of these symptoms can be managed with treatment and support.

How does it affect people?

Parkinson’s affects each person differently and symptoms can vary on different days.

The main symptoms are:

• Shaking or trembling.

• Stiff or tight muscles.

• Slow movement or difficulty starting or stopping a movement.

• Balance problems or difficulty standing up straight.

Parkinson’s can cause problems with daily activities such as walking, getting out of a chair or turning over in bed. It can also affect small movements such as writing, typing, shaving or buttoning up clothes.

Other common problems include: tiredness, depression, constipation, difficulty speaking or swallowing and problems doing more than one thing at a time.


Who gets Parkinson’s?

Any adult can get Parkinson’s. It is one of the most common brain conditions in Australia and 25 people are diagnosed every day:

• It is more common among people aged over 60 years.

• It can affect adults of any age.

• It affects both men and women from all cultures and lifestyles.

• It is not contagious, meaning that you can not catch it or pass it on to someone else.

• It is not usually hereditary.


How is it diagnosed?

Parkinson’s can be difficult to diagnose because everyone has different symptoms. The early signs of Parkinson’s are usually mild and affect only one side of the body. Some people first notice a mild shaking or tremor or problems with writing, shaving or doing up buttons. Another common early sign is that one arm no longer swings when walking. There is no one test or procedure that can identify Parkinson’s. The best person to diagnose Parkinson’s is a specialist doctor such as a neurologist. The doctor will observe the patient for symptoms and ask them to describe the problems they are experiencing. Scans (pictures) of the brain may be taken to make sure the problems are not being caused by another condition.


Can Parkinson’s be treated?

Medications, treatments and therapies are available to help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s. It is very important that people with Parkinson’s see a specialist doctor such as a neurologist for advice on available medications and ongoing monitoring of symptoms.


Can Parkinson’s be cured?

Unfortunately we do not yet know of any way to cure Parkinson’s or to slow its progression. New and better treatments and medications are being researched, giving us some hope for the future.

Remember: People with Parkinson’s can continue to enjoy a long and productive life with support, information and treatment.


For further information & support contact: Parkinson’s Australia: 1800 644 189 To speak to us in a language other than English: Phone: 131 450 and ask for an interpreter in your language to connect you to Parkinson’s Australia in your state or territory. This is a free service.

All Information from Parkinson’s Australia (Victoria).