What is Parkinson’s Disease? – Parkinson’s Chronicles


Parkinson’s disease occurs when dopamine producing nerve cells in the brain become damaged or die. Dopamine is vital for coordinated muscle and movement control.

The decline in dopamine levels begins to cause movement difficulties. The movement difficulties include:

  • Bradykinesia (slow movement).
  • Rigidity (stiffness in movement).
  • Resting tremor.
  • Balance uncertainties when standing or walking.
  • A change in facial expression (staring, lack of blinking).
  • Failure to swing one arm when walking.
  • Stooped posture.
  • “Frozen,” painful shoulder.
  • Limping or dragging of one leg.
  • Festinating Gait.
  • Numbness, tingling, aching or discomfort in the neck or limbs.
  • Diminished speech ability.
  • Subjective sensation of internal trembling.

Dyskinesia (involuntary movement)  may also occur in some Parkinson’s people who receive dopamine replacement medications.

Who Gets Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s affects about one million people in the United States. It also affects about ten million people around the world. Each year, about 60,000 Americans receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Men have a 50% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than women.

Parkinson’s usually affects people over the age of 60, but the disease can occur at younger ages.

A diagnosis of the disease in a person under the age of 50 is Young Onset Parkinson’s. Actor Michael J. Fox received a diagnosis of Young Onset Parkinson’s when he was 30 years old. So did Basketball star Brian Grant when he was 36 years old.

Other famous people with Parkinson’s Disease include:

  • Muhammad Ali,
  • Pope John Paul II,
  • comedian Billy Connolly,
  • American evangelist Reverend Billy Graham,
  • British actress Deborah Kerr,
  • Linda Ronstadt, and
  • artist Salvador Dali.

Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

The five stages of Parkinson’s Disease are:

  1. Stage One of Parkinson’s Disease – Earliest Stage. symptoms of PD are mild and only seen on one side of the body. There is usually minimal or no functional impairment.
  2. Stage Two of Parkinson’s Disease – Early Disease. symptoms on both sides of the body without impairment to balance.
  3. Stage Three of Parkinson’s Disease- Mid-Stage. Balance is compromised<, and falls are common at this stage.
  4. Stage Four of Parkinson’s Disease – Disabling Disease. Patient needs assistance with some activities of daily living
  5. Stage Five of Parkinson’s Disease – Most Advanced. Patient needs around the clock help.

Read more about the five stages.

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