Parkinson's disease belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders. Parkinson's and related disorders are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine is a chemical messenger responsible for transmitting signals within the brain. Parkinson's disease occurs when certain nerve cells, or neurons, die or become impaired. Normally, these neurons produce dopamine. Loss of dopamine causes the nerve cells to fire out of control, leaving patients unable to direct or control their movement in a normal manner. The four primary symptoms of Parkinson's are tremor or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability or impaired balance and coordination. Patients may also have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. The disease is both chronic and progressive. Parkinson's is not usually inherited. Early symptoms are subtle and occur gradually.

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... Parkinson disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system. The disorder affects several regions of the brain, including an area called the substantia nigra that controls balance and movement. Parkinson disease may also affect regions of the brain that regulate involuntary functions such as blood pressure and heart activity.

Often the first symptom of Parkinson disease is trembling or shaking (tremor) of a limb, especially when the body is at rest. Typically, the tremor begins on one side of the body, usually in one hand. Tremors can also affect the arms, legs, feet, and face. Other characteristic symptoms include rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk, slow movement (bradykinesia) or inability to move (akinesia), and impaired balance and coordination (postural instability).

Many Parkinson disease symptoms occur when nerve cells (neurons) in the substantia nigra die or become impaired. Normally, these cells produce a chemical messenger called dopamine, which transmits signals within the brain to produce smooth physical movements. When these dopamine-producing neurons die or become impaired, communication between the brain and muscles weakens, and eventually, the brain is unable to control muscle movement. In most cases of Parkinson disease, protein deposits called Lewy bodies appear in dead or dying dopamine-producing neurons. It is unclear whether Lewy bodies play a role in killing nerve cells, or if they are part of a repair process.

Generally, individuals with symptoms that begin before the age of 20 years are considered juvenile-onset cases. Individuals with an onset of the disorder before age 50 are classified as early-onset cases, and late-onset cases are those that first display symptoms after age 50. ...

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