Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common, non-fatal disorder of the brain (not necessarily of the mind). PD generally affects older persons and is considered a progressive disease, which means that the symptoms often become more obvious over a period of time.
The Discovery of Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease is named for the English physician, Dr. James Parkinson who described the disease in 1817 as "Shaking Palsy". It was not until the 1960's that the biological and chemical changes in the brain of persons with PD were identified.
Who Suffers from Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson's disease affects over 2 million people in the United States alone. For every 100,000 people, 20 new cases of PD are diagnosed every year. Most PD cases are in persons over the age of 50. However, there is a significant increase of patients diagnosed in their 30's and 40's. There is also a form of PD that affects persons in their teens.
Possible Causes of Parkinson's Disease
Researchers have discovered many of the chemical mechanisms in PD, however, the cause of PD remains unknown. One known trigger for PD is sleeping sickness (encephalitis), a viral infection that damages the same area of the nervous system as PD. This is rare, except for cases arising immediately after the world wide epidemic of sleeping sickness between 1918 and 1932. In recent years, many young people have developed PD like symptoms following the use of an illegal drug.