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Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive movement disorder that affects the body's ability to control movement.

The condition is a result of damage to brain cells that produce dopamine, which relays messages to the parts of the brain that control movement.

Primary symptoms of Parkinson's include the following:

  • Trembling of limbs, hands and face (tremor)
  • Stiffness of limbs and the body's core (rigidity)
  • Slow movements
  • Poor balance and coordination

Parkinson's disease: what you should know

  • Many patients have Parkinson’s disease for 10 to 25 years before they develop serious complications.
  • Regular exercise can help with many of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Our clinicians collaborate with physical therapists who have expertise in Parkinson’s disease.
  • The first medication or treatment decision for Parkinson's is crucial: Because different medications can alter the brain's chemicals in a variety of ways, it is important to receive an initial assessment or second opinion by experts in the field such as those at Rush.

How can I find out if I have Parkinson’s disease?

  • Early signs of Parkinson's disease. Very early signs can be present but are often subtle. If detected and linked to Parkinson's, the following early signs could help our doctors prevent future deterioration:
    • Loss of sense of smell
    • Chronic constipation
    • Physically acting out dreams at night, a sleep disorder known as REM behavior disorder
  • Expert diagnosis. Our doctors treat a high volume of Parkinson's disease patients, giving them extensive experience confirming or providing a diagnosis. To diagnose Parkinson's disease, our doctors use some of the following tests:
    • Detailed health and family history, including discussion of prior treatments (for a second opinion)
    • Neurologic exam, including an assessment of thinking and memory (cognition), movement, sensation, gait and balance
    • Manual motor testing: Patients are asked to perform motor tasks, such as tapping their index fingers to their thumbs repetitively
    • Videotaping: When diagnosing Parkinson's, our doctors carefully review a videotaped session of the patient to determine whether certain movements that are characteristic of Parkinson's are present.

Departments and programs that treat this condition

A neurologist at Rush who specializes in movement disorders predicts there will be significant breakthroughs over the next decade in treating Parkinson's.

Hear doctors at Rush describe life-changing treatments for Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.