Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes shaking and other uncontrollable movements, trouble with balance and coordination, and stiffness. Symptoms usually start out mild and get worse over time. As the disease advances, people may have trouble walking and talking. They also may have mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory issues, and fatigue.

Parkinson’s is caused by reduced production of dopamine, an important chemical in the brain. Nerve cells in a certain area of the brain that produce dopamine become impaired or die, resulting in less dopamine. It is not known what causes these cells to die. There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but medication, surgery, and other treatments often can relieve some symptoms.

Parkinson’s usually affects people age 60 or older, though 5-10% of cases start before age 50. Some research suggests that it affects more men than women. Certain forms of Parkinson’s that begin at a younger age may be passed down from parents, and some forms have been linked to abnormalities in a person’s genes. Nearly 90,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year in the United States, and that number appears to be growing quickly.

UAB Comprehensive Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Clinic

Located at The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital, the UAB Comprehensive Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Clinic sees more than 3,500 patients each year. It is staffed by neurologists who specialize in the full range of neurological disorders that affect movement, such as Parkinson’s and related disorders. It offers complete diagnostic services and the full range of treatments, including medications; physical, occupational, and speech therapy; deep brain stimulation surgery; and neuropsychological evaluations and treatment. It also participates in clinical research trials that test new medical and surgical therapies for Parkinson’s and other conditions that affect movement.

Parkinson’s Disease Information and Referral Center

The Parkinson’s Disease Information and Referral Center was established in 1978 by the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) and is located at UAB Medicine. Patients, caregivers, health care providers, and others in the community can receive support from the center, whether they are UAB patients or not. Learn more at

Excellence in Parkinson’s disease research

UAB Medicine is home to one of eight Advanced Centers for Parkinson Research in the nation, as designated by the APDA. UAB participates in many studies and clinical trials of new medications and treatments, and more than a dozen clinical trials are open to patients at any given time. Some trials are for particular stages of the disease and others are open to all patients, so a wide range of people with Parkinson’s may benefit from the latest science.

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