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Parkinson's disease is a progressive, chronic brain condition that results from the loss of cells in a region of the brain that controls movement. This loss causes a deficiency of a certain brain chemical (dopamine), which causes movement problems. Even though there are many theories as to why these brain cells die, no actual cause of Parkinson's disease has ever been proven. Treatment typically involves medication.

What Is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease is a common condition of the brain that typically begins in the middle to later part of life. It is a progressive condition, meaning that it continues to get worse with time. There is currently no cure for Parkinson's disease, nor is there a way to prevent it (see Prevention of Parkinson's Disease).
  
Parkinson's disease has probably existed for thousands of years. Its symptoms and potential therapies were mentioned in the Ayurveda (the system of medicine practiced in India as early as 5000 B.C.) and in the first Chinese medical text (Nei Jing), which appeared 2,500 years ago.
 

What Causes Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease results from the loss of brain cells in a region of the brain that controls movement. This loss creates a shortage of dopamine, which is a chemical in the brain called a neurotransmitter. This loss of dopamine results in the problems with movement that are characteristic of Parkinson's disease.
 
Although there are many theories as to why these brain cells die, no actual Parkinson's disease cause has ever been proven.
 
Current theories regarding the possible cause or causes of Parkinson's disease include:
 
  • Environmental factors
  • Genetic factors
  • Free radicals
  • Normal age-related wearing down
  • A combination of some or all of these theories.
     
(Click Cause of Parkinson's Disease for more information.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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