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Parkinson's Disease: An Update

Published on November 27, 2007

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Parkinson’s disease affects about one million people in North America alone. This disease is a slowly progressive neurodegenerative condition that results in slowness and stiffness and can impair a person’s ability to carry out tasks independently. Unfortunately, there is still no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and much of the treatment focuses on alleviating the symptoms with oral medications. Dr. Cindy Zadikoff discusses the various stages of Parkinson’s disease as well as the different treatment options.

Not all of the symptoms of Parkinson’s are movement-related; there are often non-motor symptoms as well. About 40 percent of patients with Parkinson's disease also suffer from depression, and many have trouble with speech. Learn more about dopamine and its effect on Parkinson’s patients. At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the physicians and experts on staff take a team approach to treatment. Movement disorder specialists, such as Dr. Zadikoff, work with physical therapists and speech therapists to provide the best care for patients living with Parkinson’s.

Dr. Zadikoff discusses current treatments, such as levodopa, that reduce symptoms. She also speaks about the latest research in finding new and better drugs to increase the quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s. Hear about the tremendous progress being made as scientists across the nation collaborate to find a cure for this neurodegenerative disease.

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  • Aging
  • Parkinson's Disease


Andrew Schorr:

Hello. This is Andrew Schorr. Welcome once again to one of our Patient Power programs on This is where every two weeks we have a new program with an expert from Northwestern discussing a serious health concern. Today we're going to talk about Parkinson's disease, a serious movement disorder, and with us is an expert in the field, neurologist Dr. Cindy Zadikoff, who's an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern.

Dr. Zadikoff, thanks for being with us.

Dr. Zadikoff:

Thanks for having me.

Andrew Schorr:

So help us understand the prevalence of Parkinson's and just what is Parkinson's.

Dr. Zadikoff:

Parkinson's disease fits into one of the category of diseases that we refer to generally as a neurodegenerative condition. And what that means is essentially that there's an area of the brain that degenerates, and it continues to do so, and up until this point we don't know exactly why it happens, what sets the whole process off.

In terms of how common is it, we say that about a million patients in North America are affected, and certainly age is a risk factor. As for prevalence, meaning the number of people at any point in time who are affected over about the age of 60 or, it's about three percent.

Andrew Schorr:

And rarely, but it can happen in children as well, correct?

Dr. Zadikoff:

Yes. That's called juvenile Parkinson's, but really that's a very uncommon form. So the large majority of people are older. The mean age of onset is about mid 60s. About five to ten percent of patients who have Parkinson's disease have young onset disease. In most cases we refer to that as being about less than 40 years of age. Less than 20 years of age is called juvenile onset, and that's a much, much less common form of the disease.

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