Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the world. It commonly occurs at a rate of about one in 100 people overall. This means that there are about 1 million cases of this disease in the United States alone. However, this number may be underestimated as many people with Parkinson’s are never officially diagnosed. Doctors worldwide like Joon Faii Ong are working hard to learn more about this disease and how it can be better managed.

This disease is often compared to Alzheimer’s because the two are similar in that they both involve a loss of dopamine-producing neurons. Both diseases also affect the same areas of the brain and upset motor function. However, Parkinson’s is different from Alzheimer’s disease in that symptoms of Parkinson’s can develop gradually over the years, while symptoms of Alzheimer’s typically begin to show up abruptly. This is why some people initially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s actually turn out to have a progressive disorder such as Parkinson’s.

Here are some other facts about Parkinson’s disease.

1) How is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?

There is no single test available to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Instead, doctors base their diagnosis on a combination of factors. For example, they look at the telltale symptoms of tremor, muscle rigidity, and slow movements; may perform an MRI scan to determine if brain cells have begun dying off in the substantia nigra region of the brain, and may test for the presence of proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease.

2) How Do Doctors Treat Parkinson’s Disease?

There is no cure for this disease, but there are ways to manage it. Treatment varies according to what type of symptoms a patient has. For example, if the problem is an inability to move (called bradykinesia), a doctor might prescribe a medication that boosts dopamine levels in the brain. If a person experiences tremors, doctors may prescribe medications to reduce tremor activity, or they may also use surgery to implant electrodes into the brain that delivers mild electrical stimulation.

3) How Many People Have Parkinson’s Disease?

More than 10 million people worldwide live with this condition. The disorder is most common in older age groups, with about 60 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease being over 60. The average age at which symptoms first appear is 50 and 55 years. Parkinson’s disease is also widely thought to be underreported.

4) What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

Depending on how much dopamine-producing brain cells have been damaged, an individual with Parkinson’s may experience various symptoms. These include tremors or shaking of the hands, arms, legs, or chin; stiffness in the limbs, trunk, or face; slowness of movement; difficulty with balance and coordination; and inability to initiate movement. In addition, some people may have trouble swallowing, feel depressed or anxious, or have problems sleeping.

5) Is Parkinson’s Disease Genetic?

In rare cases, a person may be born with a genetic mutation that makes him or her more likely to develop Parkinson’s. In others, the disease may be associated with a genetic mutation acquired through environmental factors such as pesticide exposure and head trauma. However, most cases are sporadic, meaning that they occur in people who have no known family history or genetic risk factor.