Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.

Symptoms generally develop slowly over years.

Early Signs of Parkinson's Disease


Have you noticed a slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand or chin? A tremor while at rest is a common early sign of Parkinson's disease.

Small Handwriting

Has your handwriting gotten much smaller than it was in the past? You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, such as letter sizes are smaller and the words are crowded together. A change in handwriting may be a sign of Parkinson's disease called micrographia.

Loss of Smell

Have you noticed you no longer smell certain foods very well? If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson's.

Trouble Sleeping

Do you thrash around in bed or act out dreams when you are deeply asleep? Sometimes, your spouse will notice or will want to move to another bed. Sudden movements during sleep may be a sign of Parkinson's disease.

Trouble Moving or Walking

Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Have others noticed that your arms don’t swing like they used to when you walk? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson's disease. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem “stuck to the floor.”


Do you have trouble moving your bowels without straining every day? Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson's disease and you should talk to your doctor.

A Soft or Low Voice

Have other people told you that your voice is very soft or that you sound hoarse? If there has been a change in your voice you should see your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson's disease.

Masked Face

Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face, even when you are not in a bad mood? This is often called facial masking. If so, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson's disease.

Dizziness or Fainting

Do you notice that you often feel dizzy when you stand up out of a chair? Feeling dizzy or fainting can be a sign of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson's disease (PD).

Stooping or Hunching Over

Are you not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson's disease (PD).

Critical Risk Factors

While Parkinson’s has no known identifiable causes, there are several risk factors for the disease, including toxins, gut dysfunction, and problems with neuron signaling.

  • Environmental toxins: Pesticides and herbicides including insecticides permethrin and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH), the herbicides paraquat and organophosphorus, organochlorines, phenoxy acetic acids, and triazane compounds are associated with Parkinson’s risk. Glyphosate, the active ingredient found in Roundup herbicide is also linked to neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s.

  • Gut dysfunction: Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut and travels to the brain via the vagus nerve. A link between gut bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori and Parkinson’s has been uncovered.

  • Neuron transmission disruption: Toxins hinder a key step in the transmission of neuronal signals—the recycling of waste proteins (empty vesicle lipid membranes surrounding a neuron) essential for higher brain functioning. Parkinson’s’ earliest signs often display as sleep disorders, including a lower duration of sleep and deep sleep, which decrease recycling and restorative brain processes.

  • Oxidative stress: Inflammation caused by free-radical damage in the brain is closely associated with several degenerative neurologic disorders, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.

What can you do if you have PD?

  • Work with your doctor to create a plan to stay healthy. This might include the following:

  • A referral to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain

  • Care from an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or speech therapist

  • Meeting with a medical social worker to talk about how Parkinson's will affect your life

  • Start a regular exercise program to delay further symptoms.

  • Talk with family and friends who can provide you with the support you need.

  • For more information, visit Parkinson's Foundation Treatment page.

While there is no known cure for Parkinson’s, current conventional treatments include many drugs and a last-resort surgery option to alleviate symptoms:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa (CD/LD): Levodopa is a chemical that passes into your brain and converts to dopamine. Combined with carbidopa, it lessens one of the biggest side effects of Parkinson’s drugs—nausea. Other side effects include lightheadedness and, after prolonged use, patients may develop dyskinesia (involuntary movements) and wearing-off of the drug.

  • Dopamine agonists: These mimic dopamine effects in your brain, last longer than CD/LD, and are used for falling off periods. They cause many of the same side effects as CD/LD but also may cause hallucinations, sleepiness, and compulsive behaviors.

  • MAO B inhibitors: These help prevent the breakdown of brain dopamine by inhibiting the brain enzyme monoamine oxidase B (MAO B), which metabolizes brain dopamine. Side effects include nausea, insomnia, and hallucinations if combined with CD/LD.

  • Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors: Entacapone (Comtan) mildly prolongs the effect of levodopa therapy by blocking an enzyme that breaks down dopamine. Side effects include dyskinesia and diarrhea.

  • Anticholinergics: These control Parkinson’s tremors but present many side effects including impaired memory, confusion, hallucinations, constipation, dry mouth, and impaired urination.

  • Amantadine: Used for short-term relief of symptoms of mild, early-stage Parkinson’s, amantadine may also be given with CD/LD drugs to control dyskinesia. Side effects include purple mottling of the skin, ankle swelling, and hallucinations.

  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS): For DBS, surgeons implant electrodes into your brain to decrease Parkinson’s symptoms. Risks include infections, stroke, and brain hemorrhage.

Latest Alternative Treatments

Alternative Parkinson’s research is growing, and has compiled 497 abstracts related to Parkinson’s research and enhancing quality of life for Parkinson’s patients:

  • Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean): This is a naturally occurring L-Dopa plant. A powdered preparation of this bean, called HP-200, was examined in Parkinson’s diagnosed patients (46 male and 14 female) and significantly reduced symptoms. The group mean dose for optimal control of symptoms was 6-plus/minus-3 sachets (7.5 grams) in water taken orally.

A blind clinical trial of eight Parkinson’s patients showed faster action and longer time without an increase in dyskinesia, highlighting a distinct advantage over conventional CD/LD preparations. Similarly, the bean performed better (i.e., was safer and more effective) in a study of 16 Parkinson’s patients when compared to L-dopa treatments.

  • Black cumin (Nigella sativa L.) seed oil: Biochemical studies of black cumin seed oil revealed the potential to control inflammation in the mix glial cells of rats, an important issue in Parkinson’s.

  • Baicalein: This Chinese herbal medicine used for treating central nervous system diseases has been found to have neural protective characteristics beneficial for Parkinson’s symptoms by inhibiting nitric oxide’s (NO) and free radicals’ microglia damage.

  • Movement and the arts. Exercise lowers neuron degeneration and reduces inflammation in the brain, reducing symptoms in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Music therapy, tai chi and qigong, yoga, relaxation, massage, and dancing also help decrease Parkinson’s symptoms.

  • Gingko biloba. Ginkgetin, a bioflavonoid isolated from ginkgo biloba leaves, has many anti-inflammatory, anti-influenza virus, and anti-fungal benefit. Research with mice has shown its significant neuroprotective ability.

  • Coenzyme Q10. In 80 Parkinson’s patients, the greatest benefit occurred in those taking 1,200 milligrams of CoQ10. The supplement proved to be both safe and effective in slowing Parkinson’s function deterioration.

CoQ10 prevented neurotoxic impact of the pesticide paraquat on rats. Serum CoQ was associated with lower risk for dementia and greater protection for neurons. CoQ10 (ubiquinol 10 version) was very effective in helping with the falling off of CD/LD treatments for Parkinson’s in rats.

  • Curcumin. Curcumin (and its compound metabolite tetrahydrocurcumin—ThC) may help prevent neuron toxicity in Parkinson’s-induced mice. Research shows curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties that can benefit those facing Parkinson’s.

  • Cannabidiol (CBD). This non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid of the cannabis plant has shown potential to decrease Parkinson’s motor and non-motor symptoms.

Although Parkinson’s currently has no cure and no agreed-upon cause, research is helping to understand the disease and find alternative treatment options that can increase the quality of life for those with Parkinson’s.