World Parkinson's Day is commemorated every year on April 11 to raise awareness about the fastest-growing neurological condition in the world.

It is estimated that more than 10 million people worldwide live with progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by the nerves.

Parkinson's disease (PD) occurs when nerve cells in the basal ganglia of the brain responsible for movements become impaired or die. When these nerve cells deteriorate, they lose their ability to produce an important brain chemical called dopamine often referred to as the "feel good" hormone.

Risk factors

Although the exact cause of the disease is still unknown, scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors work together to determine the onset of the disease.

  • About 15% of people with Parkinson's disease have a family history of the condition
  • Several studies have shown that environmental factors, including pesticides, air pollution, and industrial solvents, could increase the risk of the disease
  • The risk of PD increases with age, although younger people can be affected as well
  • Men are 1.5 times more likely to be affected than women
  • Repeated injuries to the head can increase one's risk of developing the condition

Early symptoms

1. Tremor- The involuntary rhythmic shaking happens when the muscles are still which usually goes away with movement. The tremors often start in the fingers or hands with what's called a pill-rolling motion and can spread to both sides of the body. However, several other health issues, like multiple sclerosis can also cause tremors.

2. Dystonia- Stiffness or cramping in a muscle or limb is an early sign of Parkinson's disease although stiffness can be caused by many other conditions. The patients may experience pain in the muscles that restrict their movements.

3. Loss of automatic movements- Certain changes in the ability to perform unconscious movements like blinking, smiling, or swinging arms while walking can be a sign of Parkinson's Disease.

4. Stooped posture- Impaired posture and balance issues are common signs of PD.

5. Changes in writing- Writing may become a difficult task and the handwriting usually becomes small and cramped as the disease progresses.

6. Speech changes- Most people with Parkinson's tend to talk slowly, but some might speak rapidly and stutter. People also experience words getting mumbled or trailed off at the end of a sentence.

7. Slowed movement- Doing simple tasks like getting up from a chair may become difficult and time-consuming. The condition may slow the movements and the steps become shorter while walking.


Parkinson's disease is incurable. However, several treatment therapies focus on slowing the progression of the disease and ensuring a good quality of life for the patients.

Doctors may prescribe medications such as Levodopa to control tremors. When the medications fail to work, some patients opt for a surgical procedure called deep-brain stimulation. During the procedure, a small current is passed with high frequency through areas of the brain that blocks motor function. The success rate of the treatment is 90% in decreasing or getting rid of Parkinson's tremors.

Common misconceptions

Myth 1: Parkinson's only affects movements

Although tremors and slowness of movements are the most common signs of the disease in earlier stages, patients also exhibit nonmotor symptoms like cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and sleep problems in the later stages of the disease.

Myth 2: Parkinson's patients cannot take care of themselves

Only patients in the later stages of the disease may require full or partial assistance while many patients can take care of themselves till the condition progresses.

Myth 3:The medications for Parkinson's cause symptoms

The most popular misconception about Parkinson's is that levodopa is toxic and causes the condition to progress faster. However, a large clinical study proved that levodopa helps slow the progression of the disease or has a prolonged effect on the symptoms of the disease.

Myth 4: Parkinson's is fatal

The disease itself is not fatal like a stroke or heart attack. However, as the disease progresses, patients may become more vulnerable to falls and infections.

Myth 5: The disease has flare-ups and then goes away

Parkinson's progresses with time. It does not disappear sporadically like many other conditions that have flare-ups and goes away.

Parkinson's hands
Typical Parkinson's symptoms include hand tremors and movement problems, though it has been difficult to pinpoint a single cause for the neurodegenerative disease. Pixabay, public domain