What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system affecting more than 1.5 million people in the United States. Parkinson’s disease is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain which means there is less dopamine available in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical (neurotransmitter) that transmits signals between areas in the brain that, when working normally, coordinate smooth and balanced muscle movement. There are also several “non-motor” symptoms that could be a part of Parkinson’s disease.

There is Help

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there is help. Being under the care of a neurologist is one of the main things you can do to help manage Parkinson’s. Medication and surgical options help manage several aspects of the disease. Exercise, nutrition and a support network can also help you on this journey. You can still live your life despite Parkinson’s.


Parkinson’s disease presents itself differently from person to person. Although Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, the symptoms below are not shown in all cases of Parkinson’s disease. These symptoms are not a standalone tool for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease it requires a physical exam by a neurologist and a review of one’s medical history.

If you have not been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please contact the Iowa Parkinson’s Information & Referral Center for information on neurologists in your area or refer to your physician.

Motor or Movement-Related Symptoms


-Bradykinesia or slow movement

-Resting tremor

-Instability (balance difficulty)

-Motor dexterity and coordination difficulty

-Mask-like facial expression


-Smaller handwriting


Non-Motor Symptoms

-Changes in mood

-Bladder problems



-Loss of sense of smell

-Sleep disorders

-Cognitive changes

-Difficulty swallowing

-Sexual dysfunction


-Speech difficulty