About Parkinson's DiseaseParkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system affecting more than 1.5 million people in the United States. Clinically, the disease is characterized by a decrease in spontaneous movements, gait difficulty, postural instability, rigidity and tremor.
Parkinson's disease is caused by the degeneration of the pigmented neurons in the substantia nigra of the brain, resulting in decreased dopamine availability. The major symptoms of the disease were originally described in 1817 by an English physician, Dr. James Parkinson, who called it "Shaking Palsy." It was not until the 1960's, however, that pathological and biochemical changes in the brain of patients were identified, opening the way to the first effective medication for controlling the symptoms of the disease.
Men and women alike are affected. The frequency of the disease is considerably higher in the over-60 age group, even though there is an alarming increase of patients of younger age. In consideration of the increased life expectancy in this country and worldwide, an increasing number of people will be victims of Parkinson's disease.