Older mans head suffering from Parkinsons

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that develops when brain cells that produce dopamine die. 

Dopamine is a vital chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that helps regulate movement. When dopamine is depleted, classic Parkinson's symptoms like slowness of movement, shaking, stiffness, and walking difficulties can occur.

Doctors used to consider Parkinson's disease solely a motor (movement) disorder, but now they know it also causes non-motor-related symptoms like sleep problems, anxiety, loss of smell, and constipation, and that these symptoms may actually predate the motor symptoms by many years or even decades.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes Parkinson's Disease?

    Experts haven’t pinned down the exact cause, but it’s believed that Parkinson’s is caused by certain genes and environmental factors, like exposure to toxins. This leads to brain changes,  which may play causal roles. They are:

    • Death of brain cells that produce dopamine
    • Neurodegeneration
    • Lewy body accumulation
  • Is Parkinson's disease hereditary?

    It’s believed to be, at least in part. Experts don’t know the exact cause(s) yet, but they believe Parkinson’s disease may be caused by a complex interaction between your genes and your environment, which may include toxins like pesticides. Only about 14% of people with the disease have a first-degree relative with Parkinson’s. Risk factors include being over age 60 and being biologically male.

  • What are early warning signs of Parkinson's disease?

    The earliest symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are often non-motor symptoms, including:

    • Constipation
    • Depression and anxiety
    • Reduced sense of smell
    • REM sleep behavior disorder (having vivid dreams, nightmares, acting out in your dreams)

    These symptoms result from neurological changes that will eventually lead to classic Parkinson’s symptoms like tremor, slowness and other movement problems.

  • What are the five stages of Parkinson's disease?

    Parkinson’s progresses through these stages over time:

    1. Mild symptoms, one side of body
    2. Symptoms on both sides of your body
    3. Balance is impaired, movement slows down, disability is apparent
    4. Severe symptoms limit daily activities, movement and walking impairments with falls
    5. Inability to care for yourself, wheelchair is necessary, dementia is possible

    Treatment can prevent progression to later stages.

  • How can I prevent Parkinson's disease?

    Thus far, there’s no known way to prevent Parkinson’s disease. Genetic testing can tell you your risk, which may help with earlier diagnosis and treatment. That, in turn, may slow the progression of the disease. However, it’s not yet possible to prevent the disease from developing.

  • Is there a cure for Parkinson's disease?

    Parkinson’s disease currently has no known cure. However, a number of treatments can ease the symptoms and researchers are always learning more about how to possibly slow down the progression of the disease.

Key Terms

Explore Parkinson's Disease

Businessman in suit looks out window
Is There a Parkinson's Disease Personality Type?
family dinner
Is Parkinson's Disease Inherited?
Hands of an elderly woman buttoning a man's cuff
Impact and Treatment of Rigidity in Parkinson's Disease
person taking pill out of pill case
Medication On-Off Phenomenon in Parkinson's Disease
Middle aged man looking off to the right
Do Only Old People Get Parkinson's Disease?
a man with Parkinson's disease holds his knee
Cogwheeling in Parkinson's Disease
a man with Parkinson's Disease holds his knee
Micrographia as a Sign of Parkinson's Disease
Young woman wrapping up an older woman at window
Coping With Freezing in Parkinson's Disease
Older man on laptop
Is Parkinson's Disease Caused by a Virus or Contagious?
Parkinson's Support Group
The 7 Best Parkinson's Disease Support Groups of 2021
Older couple embracing
Parkinson's Dementia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment
Depressed older man
Early Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
Tired woman laying on bed with eyes closed
Coping With Disabling Fatigue in Parkinson's Disease
male executive running to the toilet
Common Urinary Conditions With Parkinson's Disease
Drooling and Parkinson's
Excessive Drooling and Parkinson's Disease
Caucasian rancher looking away
Early Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
Man clutching at his stomach
The Gastrointestinal Effects of Parkinson's Disease
Senior Caucasian woman with chin in hands
Mood Disorders in Parkinson's Disease
A man talking to his doctor about his hand pain
Parkinson's Disease and Pain
Elderly man taking a medicine with a cup of water
Apathy and Parkinson's Disease
Man sitting on couch clasping his hands together
Causes of Resting Tremors in Parkinson's Disease
Senior woman sleeping
Sleep Problems and Parkinson's Disease
senior woman and social worker
Speech and Language Problems in Parkinson's Disease
Depressed disabled retired man sitting on couch with cane stick
Weight Loss in Parkinson's Disease
A man laying in bed unable to sleep
Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
Senior couple having serious discussion over lunch at home
Mood and Memory Changes in Parkinson's Disease
young at heart
How Parkinson's Disease Might Cause Sexual Dysfunction
Man looking at eye chart
Visual Disturbances in Parkinson's Disease
Senior woman with shoulder tension or back ache
Dystonia vs. Dyskinesia in Parkinson's Disease
Making his treatment easy to understand
How a DaTscan Is Used to Diagnose Parkinson's Disease
Older woman smelling flowers
How a Smell Test May Predict Parkinson's Disease
Caucasian woman sleeping in bed near open window
Acting Out Dreams Predicts Later Dementia
Woman holding her neck and speaking with a doctor
Neck Pain in Women Linked to Parkinson's Disease
An MRI test.
What Tests Diagnose Parkinson's Disease?
Woman doing genetic testing
Genetics Testing in Parkinson's Disease
Physical therapist working with a senior man's legs
Physical Therapy for Parkinson's Disease
A woman talking to doctor about shoulder pain
Stiff Shoulder Syndrome and Parkinson’s Disease
Woman sitting outside holding her arm
Young Onset vs. Late Onset Parkinson's Disease
a woman stroking an older man's head in hospital
Symptoms of a Stroke vs. Parkinson's Disease
Ongentys May Help Reduce "Off" Times From Levodopa
Ongentys: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Precautions
Woman is making insulin injection in the stomach. Stock photo
Apokyn: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Precautions
The effects of Parkinson's disease treatment can wear off
Inbrija: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Precautions
Doctor or physician recommend pills medical prescription to male Patient hospital and medicine concept
What Conditions Are Treated With Dopamine Agonists?
Doctors reviewing brain imaging on tablet
Overview of Deep Brain Stimulation Treatment
cbd oil for parkinson's disease
Using CBD to Treat Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
Caregiver helping man with shopping
The New Anti-Parkinson's Drug Safinamide
Older woman doing stretching exercises
Treating Dyskinesia in Parkinson's Disease With DBS
Woman with hands folded talking to a doctor
Guide to Parkinson's Medications
medication
Over-the-Counter Pain Meds for Parkinson's Disease
A man with Parkinson's disease holds his knee
Dopamine Replacement Therapy in Parkinson's Disease
Senior citizen man being comforted by doctor
Rytary Long-Acting Medication for Parkinson's Disease
woman giving senior a pill to take with water
Dopamine Medications for Treating Parkinson's Disease
Gifts for People with Parkinson's
The 10 Best Gifts for People with Parkinson’s of 2021
Senior man relaxing in water by edge of swimming pool
High-Intensity Exercise for Those With Parkinson’s
Patient Thanking Doctor
Parkinson's Disease Dementia Overview
Tai chi
How Can Tai Chi Help With Parkinson's Disease?
3 senior women in a pool
Exercise Programs for Parkinson's Disease
doctor and patient talking
How to Find the Right Doctors for Parkinson's Disease
man and woman talking in office
What to Say at Work When You Have Parkinson's Disease
Friends hanging by lake
Impact of Parkinson's Disease on Relationships
Page Sources
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.
  1. National Institute on Aging. Parkinson's disease. May 16, 2017.

  2. World Health Organization. What are neurological disorders? May 3, 2016.