You've just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Now what?

The single most important thing you should do is learn everything you can about this disease, including the symptoms and various treatment options.

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a chronic, degenerative, neurological disorder of the central nervous system. It's caused by a loss of cells in various parts of the brain, including a region called the substantia nigra. This area produces dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Dopamine is involved in the coordination of movement, and the loss of dopamine causes neurons to fire uncontrollably.

According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, about 1 in 100 people over age 60 has Parkinson's. The Foundation estimates 1 million people in the U.S. and more than 5 million worldwide have Parkinson's disease.

Some of the physical symptoms of Parkinson's disease are recognizable. The hallmark sign is difficulty performing voluntary movements, or dyskinesia. Sometimes dyskinesia is a side effect from the long-term use of levodopa, one of the most common treatment medications.

Living With Parkinson's Disease

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation recommends that patients develop and maintain a multidisciplinary disease management plan that takes a positive and proactive approach to living and coping with Parkinson's disease. Learn about the treatment options for Parkinson's disease and be sure you understand the pros, cons, and limitations of each.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation offers several suggestions for individuals newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease:

  • Find a physician with whom you feel comfortable and who will collaborate with you on a medication plan that evolves as your symptoms change.
  • Take part in research. Fewer than 10 percent of Parkinson's patients ever participate in clinical trials, which provide the necessary data to bring new treatments to patients who need them.
  • Exercise and manage your stress. Stress can worsen Parkinson's symptoms and can compromise overall health. Incorporate stress management techniques daily, such as deep breathing exercises.
  • Connect with others. Don't let your Parkinson's diagnosis make you feel isolated. You're not alone and connecting with others through in-person or online support groups, or participating in awareness and fundraising activities, will help you cope.
  • Be your own advocate. No one is as committed to your health as you are, so stay informed and engaged in your treatment. Don't forget to ask questions or speak up if your symptoms change.

Receiving a Parkinson's diagnosis is clearly life changing, but it doesn't have to be life defining.



Michael J. Fox Foundation. "I've Got What?" Web.

Michael J. Fox Foundation. "Living With Parkinson's." Web.

Parkinson's Disease Foundation. "Coping With a Diagnosis." Web.

Stanford School of Medicine. "Recently Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease?" Web.