American Family Children's Hospital

Parkinson's Disease

UW Health's Movement Disorders Program, based at University Hospital, treats patients with Parkinson's disease.


What is Parkinson's disease?


Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the brain that causes difficulty with walking, slowed movements and reduced coordination.

What causes Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson's disease occurs when the nerve cells in the mid-brain are destroyed. The cause of this premature cell death is not yet known. These cells produce a chemical called dopamine which is important for certain brain-adjacent regions involved with movement to communicate with each other. When brain dopamine levels are too low, tremor, rigidity of limbs and slowness of movement occur. The damage to these cells worsens over time, which causes symptoms to become gradually more severe.


  • Muscle rigidity
  • Stooped posture
  • Loss of balance
  • Changes in walking pattern
  • Difficulty initiating voluntary movement
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Changes in facial expression
  • Voice or speech changes
  • Loss of fine motor skills




While there is no known cure for treating Parkinson's disease, the goal is to control the symptoms. Many different medications can be used to increase the level of dopamine to the brain, which helps control the disease. Several medications are available to treat symptoms of the disease. The goal is to try to increase brain dopamine activity.


Depending on the symptoms, degree of severity and impairment someone is experiencing, one or more medications may be prescribed. The commonly used medications include: carbidopa/levodopa, ropinirole, pramipexole, entacapone, tolcapone, rasagiline, and selegeline.


There are various formulations and combinations that physicians can use to help ease the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. When medical therapies have been exhausted, surgical treatments may be an option. Deep brain stimulation, a surgical treatment which uses electrodes to stimulate targeted regions of the brain, may be performed to reduce symptoms due to abnormal movement.


The Psychological Impact of Parkinson's Disease



Internet Resources