Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects people from all walks of life. It is quite common, with more than 100,000 Australians, including over 18,500 Queenslanders living with Parkinson’s.
The average age of diagnosis is 65 years, with 82% at age 65 and over, however younger people can be diagnosed with Parkinson’s too. This is referred to as Young Onset Parkinson’s.
It is not easy to diagnose Parkinson’s. There are no laboratory tests (such as a blood test or brain scan), so it is important that the diagnosis is made by a specialist, such as a neurologist. The specialist will examine for any physical signs of Parkinson’s and take a detailed history of symptoms.
Currently there is no known cause of understanding of why a person develops Parkinson’s. There are many theories as to the causes and it is generally thought that multiple factors are responsible.
Through research, our understanding of the possible causes of Parkinson’s is increasing all of the time.
The underlying cause of Parkinson’s symptoms relates to a decline in the production of a brain chemical called dopamine. Many of the cells which produce dopamine are in the Basal Ganglia located in the middle of the brain. This lack of dopamine means people can have difficulty controlling their movements and moving freely.
Parkinson’s is categorised by clinicians as a “movement disorder.” However it doesn’t just affect movement. Non-motor symptoms such as pain, depression and problems with memory and sleep can also occur and have an impact on the day to day life of the person with Parkinson’s.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s develop slowly and gradually progress over time. Each person is affected differently and the rate of progression varies greatly between individuals.
Parkinson’s doesn’t directly cause people to die and it is possible to live with Parkinson’s for a long time, although symptoms do get worse over time.
There is currently no known cure. However, there are many treatments available that can allow a person with Parkinson’s to lead a fulfilling and productive life. Treatments can assist in managing your symptoms and providing a high quality of life for many years to come.
Parkinson’s Queensland is available to support people living with Parkinson’s from recently diagnosed through to advanced Parkinson’s, along with family, carers and health professionals. You are not alone – we are in this together.
For information and support from the Parkinson’s Queensland Office: