What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative pathology of the central nervous system, characterized by the destruction of a specific population of neurons, dopamine neurons. This pathology is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in France, which affects 120,000 people with an average of 6,000 new cases per year.
01.Dopamine? What’s the point?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical messenger) synthesized by certain nerve cells. In humans, the decrease in the activity of dopaminergic neurons of the black matter leads to a decrease in the automatism of movement (such as walking) as well as muscle rigidity and tremors. This is Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disease, of slow and progressive progression, the onset of which is insidious and the course intermittent. Its evolution means that the symptoms first affect only one side of the body (right or left). The symptoms only affect the 2 sides in a second time, however they always remain more pronounced on one side than on the other. Most of the time the disease is characterized by the association of 3 symptoms: tremors, akinesia (slowness of movements) and rigidity. The 3 symptoms may not all be present at the same time. Each can be of varying intensity, one or the other being able to predominate. Other symptoms may be associated.
02.What is the course of Parkinson’s disease?
Several stages are described in the course of Parkinson’s disease:
  • Stage 1: first unilateral signs that do not cause discomfort in everyday life,
  • Stage 2: unilateral signs that cause discomfort in everyday life,
  • Stage 3: bilateral signs, impact on posture, autonomy remains complete,
  • Stage 4: autonomy begins to be limited, the more severe handicap nevertheless walking remains possible,
  • Stage 5: walking is very difficult or impossible, there is a total loss of autonomy.
It is impossible to define precisely how long each stage lasts. Everyone is different, which is why the duration of one stage differs from one patient to another.
03.What is the Honeymoon phase?
The “Honeymoon” corresponds to the phase during which you started a drug treatment to compensate for the lack of dopamine. During this phase the symptoms are faded or even totally absent. It can last for several years. Be careful, it is not because the symptoms have faded with the drug treatment that it is not necessary to do rehabilitation. Consult our page “The role of physiotherapy in Parkinson’s disease”.
04.What are the “ON” phases and the “OFF” phases?
These are fluctuations in symptoms. These fluctuations are side effects of taking medication. From a certain time, their effectiveness decreases and the number of plugs increases. Between intakes, the symptoms reappear these are the so-called “off” phases. On the other hand, the phases where the symptoms are faded thanks to the drugs are called the “On” phases.
05.Motor and non-motor symptoms
If when we talk about Parkinson’s disease, we think of the physical repercussions, namely in particular tremors, slow execution, gait disorders, etc. The disease is also accompanied by so-called “non-motor” symptoms. Indeed, there may be an impact on sleep (Do not hesitate to consult our “News” tab to learn more), episodes of daytime sleepiness are also possible. Mood disorders may also be present, including episodes of depression. Digestive disorders composed mainly of constipation and / or hypersalivation due to the progressive loss (be careful it is not systematic) of the swallowing reflex. All these non-motor symptoms increase the fatigue that the patient may feel. Be careful, this is not an exhaustive list of non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, not all of them express themselves systematically.