What is Parkinsonism (Parkinson's disease)?

About ParkinsonsParkinsonism (Parkinson's disease) is a disorder with symptoms that get worse over time. The most common symptoms are:

  • Tremor (shaking)
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Slow movement
  • Coordination and balance problems
Learn about other symptoms

There are different types of Parkinsonism, but the most common condition today is known as idiopathic (unknown cause) Parkinson's disease (PD). This form was first recognized in 1817 by James Parkinson.

Experts agree that PD symptoms are mainly due to a shortage of the brain chemical dopamine. But they don't understand why the nerve cells containing dopamine die.

About 1.5 million people in the United States have Parkinson's disease. More people are diagnosed with PD each day. As you get older, you will probably know someone with Parkinson's disease or be affected by it. Parkinson's disease:

  • Is not contagious
  • Affects both men and women of all ethnic types
  • Occurs more often with age

Movement disorders

Movement disorders such as PD are brain diseases that affect your ability to move normally. Motor (movement) symptoms may be the easiest aspect of the disease to identify because your movements are so obvious.

Since these disorders begin in the brain, they may affect more than just motor function. Movement disorders are challenging to diagnose and treat because many systems of your body may be affected.

Experts in the field are best equipped to help you tackle these complex disorders.

The most common movement disorders are parkinsonisms, which includes the most familiar form—idiopathic (unknown cause) Parkinson's disease. Uncommon parkinsonisms include:

  • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Multiple systems atrophy
  • Corticobasal degeneration
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies

The OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon also specializes in treating common movement disorders such as restless leg syndrome and essential tremor, and less common ones. The movement disorders we diagnose and treat include:

  • Ataxia
  • Blepharospasm
  • Cervical dystonia and Spasmodic torticollis
  • Corticobasal degeneration (CBGD; Parkinsonian disorder)
  • Dementia with Lewy body disease (DLBD; Parkinsonian disorder)
  • Dystonia (sustained, painful cramping of muscles)
  • Essential tremor
  • Huntington's disease
  • Multiple system atrophy (MSA/Shy dragers; Parkinsonian disorder)
  • Myoclonus
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP; Parkinsonian disorder)
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Spasmodic dysphonia
  • Spasticity
  • Tardive dyskinesia /dystonia
  • Tics
  • Tourette's syndrome
  • Tremor
  • Wilson's disease

Some of these disorders require Botox or Myoblock injections (shots) to relieve symptoms. You can visit our injection clinic for these treatments.

Unlike many diseases, Parkinson's disease symptoms, progression and treatment response can vary widely from person to person. The healthcare providers at the OHSU Parkinson Center have the expertise needed to help you find the best possible solution for your personal situation.