What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder characterized by tremors and affects muscle and motor function. It leads to challenges that interfere with daily life, such as mobility, speech, sleep, memory, mental health, and more.

Learn about the early signs and symptoms of Parkinson's and the causes, diagnosis, and disease progression.

Caregiver holding the hand of an older adult

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Early Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

One early symptom of Parkinson's is tremors, which begin mild but progress over time to include rigid muscles and mobility challenges. Tremors can affect the fingers, hands, arms, legs, jaw, and head, occurring in a rolling motion rather than shaking.

Other early signs of the disease are walking slower than usual and having constipation. Up to 60% of people with Parkinson's also experience dementia.

Additional Parkinson's disease symptoms include:

What Causes Parkinson’s?

Parkinson's disease occurs when brain cells (neurons) in the part of the brain responsible for movement are damaged or die. When this happens the brain cannot make dopamine, a chemical messenger linked to attention and movement.

Researchers don't completely understand why this happens to some people. Still, they theorize that it is partially due to genetics and external factors such as pollution and harmful substances used in farming.

Risk Factors for Parkinson’s

Age is the primary risk factor for Parkinson's disease, with 60 being the average age at diagnosis. It occurs more often in people assigned male at birth than those assigned female. Genetics is another concern, so people who have a family member with Parkinson's disease are at an increased risk. Other risk factors include:

How Is Parkinson’s Diagnosed?

Getting a Parkinson's diagnosis typically begins with an office visit in which a healthcare provider or specialist, like a neurologist, will ask questions about your symptoms and take a personal medical and family history. They may also perform tests to evaluate your movement, speech, and other tasks.

While testing alone cannot diagnose this condition, an imaging test called DaTscan can show parts of the brain to help the provider determine if your symptoms are caused by Parkinson's disease or something else.

Age of Diagnosis

The average age of diagnosis is 60, with up to 90% of people with Parkinson's disease diagnosed after they turn 50. When people experience symptoms earlier, it is generally linked to genetics.

Accepting a Parkinson’s Diagnosis

It may take time to adjust and process the news after being diagnosed with Parkinson's. The disease can be physically and emotionally challenging and impact your social life. It may help to learn more about Parkinson's disease, take advantage of available resources, and be proactive by prioritizing physical activity and other things that may alleviate or delay the progression of symptoms.

Can You Prevent Parkinson’s Disease?

While some people may be at a greater risk for Parkinson's disease through genetic or environmental factors, some things can be done to prevent the progression of it. Adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can help reduce the risk. Additionally, early diagnosis may help with treatments to prevent disease progression.

Treatment and Management of Parkinson’s Disease

The treatment for Parkinson's disease depends on individual needs, symptoms, and preferences. Some possible treatment options include the following:

Complications in Parkinson’s Patients

Parkinson's disease can lead to complications and health challenges. For example, severe rigidity, tremors, or balance issues can lead to falls. People with Parkinson's may also experience mental challenges like psychosis and hallucinations. Additional conditions often occur in conjunction with Parkinson's disease, including depression, sleep disorders, or cognitive difficulties.

Co-Occurring Conditions

Nearly 70% of people with Parkinson's disease also have high blood pressure. Many people with Parkinson's disease, especially older patients, also experience depression, anxiety, or both. Sleep disorders are also associated with Parkinson's disease, such as circadian rhythm disruptions, insomnia, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep behavior disorder.

Parkinson’s Resources, Coping, and Support

Many resources are available for people with Parkinson's, and there are many ways to cope. The support strategies you choose depend on your experience with the disease. For example, many people experience stress that makes their symptoms worse. Stress management practices such as exercise and mindfulness may help relieve symptoms. Additional support options include:

Outlook for Parkinson’s Disease

Advancements in treatment options for Parkinson's have increased longevity for people with the disease. People with Parkinson's disease tend to live as long or close to as long as people without the disease. However, it puts a strain on the body and mind, which can contribute to co-occurring conditions that lead to worse health outcomes. Even though symptoms typically progress slowly, seeking care early and regularly is important.


Parkinson's disease is a medical condition that causes tremors, difficulty with mobility, and cognitive challenges. It is typically diagnosed later in life, with 60 being the average age of diagnosis. There is no definitive cause. Men are more likely to be affected than women, and genetic and environmental factors such as exposure to pollution may contribute to disease development. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly may help reduce your risk. Treatments include medications and therapy.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ashley Olivine, Ph.D., MPH
Dr. Ashley Olivine is a health psychologist and public health professional with over a decade of experience serving clients in the clinical setting and private practice. She has also researched a wide variety psychology and public health topics such as the management of health risk factors, chronic illness, maternal and child wellbeing, and child development.