As many as one million Americans live with Parkinson's disease, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease - second only to Alzheimer’s disease.

•Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease each year, and this number does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected.

•An estimated 7 to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson's disease.

•North Dakota has the 3rd highest per capita incidence of Parkinson’s disease in the union - Midwest and agricultural communities are much more affected than southern or eastern states.

•The combined direct and indirect cost of Parkinson’s, including treatment, social security payments and lost income from inability to work, is estimated to be nearly $25 billion per year in the United States alone.

•Medication costs for an individual person with Parkinson's average $2,500 a year, and therapeutic surgery can cost up to $100,000 dollars per patient.

•Incidence of Parkinson’s increases with age, but an estimated four to ten percent of people with Parkinson's are diagnosed before the age of 50.

•Parkinson’s disease itself is NOT FATAL - related complications can reduce life expectancy. The outlook will depend on your age, severity of your condition and access to resources.

•80% of dopamine-producing cells are lost even before the movement symptoms of Parkinson's disease appear.

•Symptoms of Parkinson’s may progress over a period longer than 20 years and the first symptoms may not be movement related.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is Parkinson’s diagnosed?

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s can take time. There is no single test, such as a blood test, to determine whether a person has the disease. The family doctor should make a referral to a neurologist, preferably one who specializes in movement disorders. The person will undergo a careful physical examination and other clinical assessments, including medical history.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Symptoms develop gradually as the levels of dopamine in the brain fall. Symptoms will typically start on one side of the body and the main symptoms include:

Tremor – rhythmic shaking, usually of the hand at the beginning - this may not be present in every person with Parkinson’s

Bradykinesia – slowness of movements and loss of purposeful spontaneous movement - this MUST be present in ALL persons with Parkinson’s disease

Rigidity – stiffness or tensing of the muscles

Postural instability – lack of balance and coordination 

Other symptoms include, fatigue, depression, small handwriting, loss of sense of smell, and changes in speech, swallowing, facial expression and gait.

Is Parkinson’s hereditary?

Some, but not all. Over 75% of Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed in people with NO familial history of the disease.

Is Parkinson’s disease more common in men or women?

It is slightly more common in men, although the significance of this is unknown.

Can Parkinson’s affect a person’s mental status?

Although it is common for people with Parkinson’s to experience a mild form of cognitive impairment during the course of their illness, only an estimated forty percent of those with Parkinson’s will develop dementia (irreversible decline in two or more areas of mental functioning that is severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living).

How is Parkinson’s treated?

Using a multidisciplinary approach to treat Parkinson’s is the key to success. Although maintaining good mobility and symptom control depend largely on medication, an effective treatment program can include services offered by a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, movement disorders specialist or neurologist, clinical nurse specialist, family doctor, speech-language pathologist, psychologist or psychiatrist, registered dietitian, pharmacist, social worker and/or Parkinson's society in your local area.

Should a person with Parkinson’s exercise on a regular basis?

Yes, if possible. Because Parkinson’s affects the quality of movement, exercise becomes an important and essential part of the treatment plan. Exercise can help reduce stiffness and prevent the loss of range of motion that is associated with rigidity. Over time it may indirectly delay physical disability. Exercise also increases self-confidence, produces a feeling of general well-being and allows one to have some control over how one feels on a daily basis. Exercise has a direct impact on overall quality of life.