Parkinson’s Disease: The Simple Facts


Eleanor Boehme

Despite affecting 1% of the population above 60 years old  – about 1 in every 500 people – Parkinson’s is not highlighted nearly as often as other common diseases. 

“It’s more prevalent than people realize. They don’t understand some aspects of it, such as that people with Parkinson’s emote less in conversation,” said John Boehme, a man who is living with a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

In simple terms, Parkinson’s Disease is a lack of dopamine being produced by the nerve cells in the brain due to deteriorating neurons in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra.

The ailment is categorized as a movement disorder, and primarily presents itself as tremors, stiffness, difficulty initiating movement, and impaired balance. This is because one of dopamine’s main functions is to suppress involuntary movement. The basal ganglia is then unable to process information necessary for both planning and executing movements in the absence of it. 

“You have to worry about injury,” said Boehme.  “You have to protect yourself. Falling down sucks.”

The primary symptoms may be accompanied by other symptoms such as depression, dementia, difficulty speaking or swallowing, and dragging of the feet.

“What’s the most annoying about it is actually other people’s reactions,” said Boehme.  “People offer help when really I just want to be left alone and live my life like normal. It seems to be a bigger issue for some other people than it is for me.” 

Parkinson’s Disease, much like Alzheimer’s and Osteoporosis, is a degenerative disease. This means that the disease worsens with the progression of time. It often begins around 60 to 70 years old with slight tremors of the fingers, and is most prevalent in men, although race appears to play no factor. 

“You just learn to adapt and accept it,” said Boehme.  “Eventually one day I’ll need help.”