Basic Info About PD

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system affecting more than 1 million people in the US . Clinically, the disease is characterized by a decrease in spontaneous movements, gait difficulty, postural instability, rigidity and tremor. Parkinson's disease is caused by the degeneration of the pigmented neurons in the Substantia Nigra of the brain, resulting in decreased dopamine availability. The major symptoms of the disease were originally described in 1817 by an English physician, Dr. James Parkinson, who called it "Shaking Palsy." Only in the 1960's, however, pathological and biochemical changes in the brain of patients were identified, opening the way to the first effective medication for the disease.


Men and women alike are affected. The frequency of the disease is considerably higher in the over-60 age group, even though there is an alarming increase of patients of younger age. In consideration of the increased life expectancy in this country and worldwide, an increasing number of people will be impacted by Parkinson's disease.


Administration of the drug levodopa has been the standard treatment for Parkinson's disease. Once it reaches the brain, levodopa is converted to dopamine which replaces the same substance not present in sufficient amounts in Parkinson's patients. Treatment with levodopa does not, however, prevent the progressive changes of the brain typical of Parkinson's disease. The drug may also produce side effects in some people, due to its change to dopamine before reaching the brain. The simultaneous administration with levodopa of substances inhibiting this change allows a higher concentration of levodopa to reach the brain and also considerably decreases the side effects. Some new drugs have recently been approved offering a wider choice of medications for the patient, while others are under investigation in this country and overseas in an effort to obtain better therapeutic results with fewer side effects.

The American Parkinson Disease Association, Inc., founded in 1961, has sought to Ease the Burden - Find the Cure for this disease through research, patient and family support and education.

Education and Support

Our education program provides information and resources to patients, their families, friends, doctors and other medical professionals and enhances public education and awareness of the disease.

A set of booklets dealing with symptoms and medications, support, physiotherapy, speech problems and equipment to be used in the home is available free of charge. Some of the booklets have already been translated or are being translated into other languages.

Educational supplements dealing with specific subjects related to Parkinson's disease are periodically issued and a quarterly newsletter which focuses upon the latest developments in research and treatment of the disease is published.

APDA's network of Information and Referral Centers, chapter and support groups provide education, conferences, support and assistance and referrals.


APDA has participated in the funding of major PD scientific discoveries. In addition to supporting eight centers for advanced research located in major academic medical centers across the country, individual research grants and fellowships are awarded for promising research by experienced and young scientists. A prominent panel of the country's most outstanding neurologists and scientists reviews all research applications and recommends funding of the more promising ones.

If you wish additional information regarding an investment in finding a cure and/or helping patients, please call toll-free 1-800-223-2732.

To order APDA publications, click here!