Parkinson's disease is a progressive condition affecting the dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. It develops gradually and damages the nervous system affecting movement.
A tremor in the hand is one of the early signs of Parkinson's disease, which can also cause stiffness and a general slowing of movement. During the early stages, patients with Parkinson's often exhibit loss of facial movement or expression and speech may become soft or slurred.
Physicians who suspect a patient has Parkinson's disease are likely to refer them to a neurologist. There is no specific test for Parkinson's, so doctors may order a series of tests to rule out other conditions, such as a blood test, MRI, ultrasound of the brain, SPECT and PET scans.
Lifestyle changes may help slow the onset of Parkinson's and alleviate some of the symptoms. For example, physical therapy focusing on balance, aerobic exercise and sessions with a speech and language pathologist.
Medication can assist with movement issues and problems walking as well as replacing or mimicking dopamine and its effects in the brain. Medicines often prescribed to treat the condition include anticholinergics, MAOIs, dopamine agonists and cholinesterase inhibitors.