Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the brain characterised by shaking (tremor), slowing of movement and difficulty with walking and coordination. The disease is due to progressive deterioration of the cells in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. The disorder may affect one or both sides of the body, with varying degrees of loss of function.
Symptoms include: shaking (not always present), stiffness, loss of balance, shuffling walk, slow movements, difficulty initiating any voluntary movement, muscle aches and pains, reduced ability to show facial expressions, voice or speech changes, difficulty writing (may be small and hard to read), difficulty with any activity that requires small movements.
Diagnosis is usually made on the history and with an examination, with no need for further testing unless there is some uncertainty. There are some diseases that can mimic Parkinson’s disease.
There is no known cure for Parkinson's disease. Treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms. Many of the medications can cause severe side effects, so monitoring and follow-up by doctors is important.
For more information about Parkinson’s disease and related conditions as well as support groups in New Zealand visit www.parkinsons.org.nz