Expert Videos

Module 1: Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

What is Parkinson's disease?
Expert neurologists describe Parkinson’s disease (PD) and provide an overview of the disease. PD is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects a person’s movement. The common symptoms can include slowness, stiffness, and tremor, or a combination of any of those symptoms.
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What causes Parkinson's disease?
Expert neurologists describe what happens in the brain that leads to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). In Parkinson’s, specific cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain start to malfunction and make less of a chemical called dopamine that controls important body functions, including movement.
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What causes the loss of dopamine neurons in Parkinson's disease?
Expert neurologists explain that it is still largely unknown what causes the loss of dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease (PD). There are no smoking-gun risk factors, but there are some associations. In a small number of patients there can be a genetic reason.
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What is genetic testing for Parkinson's disease?
Expert neurologists explain that only about 10 percent of Parkinson’s disease (PD) cases are linked to genetics. Genetic testing looks for genetic mutations that are associated with PD. The experts emphasize that having a genetic mutation for PD is a risk factor, but it does not mean that you will get the disease. Most cases of PD are sporadic, meaning the cause is unknown.
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Are there environmental factors that cause Parkinson's disease?
In this video, expert neurologists explain that the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is unknown, but scientists agree that in most cases it is due to the interplay of genetic changes and environmental factors.
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Module 1: Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease

What are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and how is it diagnosed?
In this video, expert neurologists describe the variety of motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms that may be associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Common motor symptoms include slowness, stiffness, tremor, slightly stooped posture, and masking of facial expression. Common non-motor symptoms include constipation, change in sense of smell, sleep problems, and others. Non-motor symptoms can begin years before motor symptoms set in. Doctors diagnose PD based on a patient’s medical history and physical examination.
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Are there any red flags that suggest a Parkinson's diagnosis?
Expert neurologists describe red flags that may suggest a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Some of the red flags discussed are asymmetry (where symptoms such as slowness, stiffness, and tremor usually start on one side of the body) and slow progression of symptoms. They also describe how some patients may have symptoms that mimic Parkinson’s, but is not Parkinson’s.
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What tests are used to differentiate Parkinson's disease from other similar conditions?
Expert neurologists describe the differential diagnosis process used to exclude other movement disorders that mimic Parkinson’s disease (PD). Unfortunately Parkinson’s disease can be challenging to diagnose because there is no simple test for Parkinson’s, and because it shares signs and symptoms with other conditions that affect the nervous system. The experts discuss imaging tests such as DaT scan or PET scan that determine if a person has low levels of dopamine, however these can’t differentiate whether a lack of dopamine is classical PD or a mimic of PD.
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What's a Parkinson's tremor?
Expert neurologists explain that a Parkinson’s tremor is a resting tremor, meaning that the rhythmic movement, or shaking, happens to an arm, hand, or a leg while it is at rest. It will go away or stop when you move the affected part of the body. Parkinson’s tremor usually starts on one side of the body and can spread to the other as the disease advances. They also describe essential tremor (also called familial tremor) which is faster than a Parkinson's tremor and happens when moving the affected part of the body.
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What happens during a physical exam for Parkinson’s?
Expert neurologists describe the physical examination process used to assess a patient for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Movement tests are used to quantify and characterize the nature of a patient’s movements, such as tremor, slowness, stiffness, stride, arm swing and balance.
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Module 1: Treatment and Management of Parkinson’s Disease

How often should a Parkinson's patient see their doctor?
Expert neurologists discuss the importance of continuous follow-up care for Parkinson’s patients with their neurologist in order to keep their disease well managed. Seeing your doctor often, having your medications adjusted regularly, and telling your doctor about changes and side effects are very important for best managing Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s can affect sleep, mood, and the gastrointestinal system, so working with your neurologist and multidisciplinary care team is also very important.
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What medications are used to treat Parkinson’s disease? How do they work?
Expert neurologists discuss the main medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease (PD) and how they work: levodopa-carbidopa (or levodopa for short), dopamine agonists, and MAO-B inhibitors. The experts also describe the common side-effects that may be associated with these medications. It is crucial that Parkinson’s treatment decisions be made in consultation with your doctor.
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What are motor fluctuations and dyskinesias in Parkinson's disease? How are they treated?
Expert neurologists describe what motor fluctuations and dyskinesias are, and that they happen in patients who’ve been treated with Parkinson’s medications for a number of years. They also talk about how motor fluctuations and dyskinesias can be treated.
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What is deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease?
Expert neurologists describe what deep brain stimulation (DBS) is, and how it can help improve the quality of life for some Parkinson’s disease patients who’s symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medication. This surgical treatment involves placing tiny electrodes in affected areas of the brain, attached to a stimulator near your collarbone. DBS treats symptoms such as tremor, rigidity, motor fluctuations, and dyskinesias. It doesn't work as well for imbalance, freezing when walking or non-motor symptoms.
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How does a Parkinson's patient prepare for deep brain stimulation?
Expert neurologists describe the best way to prepare for the deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgical procedure. If you are offered DBS, it’s important to discuss the expected benefits and potential risks of the procedure with your neurologist. After DBS most people are able to decrease (but not completely discontinue) Parkinson's medications.
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What are rescue medications for Parkinson's disease?
Expert neurologists describe some of the Parkinson’s rescue medications that can be used during severe and sudden “off” times when regular Parkinson’s medications cannot control symptoms. Rescue medications are not for everyone and it is crucial that Parkinson’s treatment decisions be made in consultation with your doctor.
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What medications are used to treat non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease?
Expert neurologists describe the medications that are used to treat non-motor symptoms (such as sleep disturbances, mood, constipation) of Parkinson’s disease (PD). The experts explain that non-motor symptoms need to be addressed because they can substantially impact quality of life for PD patients.
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Can a specific diet help with Parkinson’s disease?
Expert neurologists explain that no specific diet can treat Parkinson's disease (PD) or its symptoms, but maintaining a healthy balanced diet can improve well-being. Constipation can be an issue in Parkinson’s, so plenty of fruits, vegetables and fluids can help maintain regularity. In some patients, high protein meals can interfere with how PD medication is absorbed.
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Can exercise help with Parkinson’s disease?
Expert neurologists describe the numerous benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Research has shown that exercise can boost dopamine levels and can help improve many PD symptoms such as balance, mobility, and motor coordination. Exercise is also an important way to remain socially engaged.
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What’s on the treatment horizon for Parkinson's? Will there be a cure in our lifetime?
Expert neurologists discuss how tremendous progress has been made in understanding and treating Parkinson’s disease (PD), however there is still a long way to go. They provide an overview of promising treatments that are in the pipeline for PD: developments with stem cells, custom-tailored treatments, vaccines, new surgical techniques, new rescue medications, and longer acting medications.
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Jointly provided by the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower and Prime Medic Inc., in collaboration with Postgraduate Institute for Medicine.

This activity is supported by independent educational grants from AbbVie Inc. and Acorda Therapeutics Inc.

This website is part of the Animated Patient™ series developed by Prime Medic Inc., to provide highly visual formats of learning for patients to improve their understanding, make informed decisions, and partner with their healthcare professionals for optimal outcomes.