What do you know about Parkinson's disease?

Immunohistochemistry for alpha-synuclein showing positive staining (brown) of an intraneural Lewy-body in the Substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease. Credit: Wikipedia

April is Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to learn more about this progressive nervous system disorder.

An estimated 1 million people in the U.S. and more than 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson's disease, according to the American Parkinson Disease Association.

The signs and symptoms of Parkinson's disease can be different for everyone. Early signs can be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides. People with Parkinson's disease can experience tremor, slowed movement, rigid muscles, speech and writing changes, and impaired posture and balance.

Risk factors for Parkinson's disease include:

  • Age: Young adults rarely experience Parkinson's disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or later life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease when they are 60 or older.
  • Heredity: Having a close relative with Parkinson's disease increases the chances that you'll develop the disease. However, your risks are still small, unless you have many relatives in your family with Parkinson's disease.
  • Sex: Men are more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than women.
  • Exposure to toxins: Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides can slightly increase your risk of Parkinson's disease.

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