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Parkinson's disease

What is Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson’s disease, also called idiopathic Parkinson’s disease is a clinical syndrome that is the result of lesions in the basal ganglia of the brain (Brigo et al 2014). Within the basal ganglia, cells that produce dopamine degenerate and the levels of dopamine become depleted. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, it enables the control and coordination of movement (Brigo et al 2014). There are other forms of Parkinson’s disease called Parkinsonism (De Reizis 2015) and drug induced Parkinson’s disease, along with Parkinson’s plus syndromes, and these are generally more aggressive (De Reizis 2015). 


Not all people with Parkinson’s disease present with every possible symptom, but the most common symptoms are tremor, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), rigidity and postural instability. It progresses slowly over time, and there is no cure for the condition but symptoms are treated using medication, therapies and potential surgical intervention (NICE 2016). 

The condition develops between 40 and 70 years of age. In the UK there are 127,000 people with Parkinson’s disease. This accounts for one in every five hundred of the population (Parkinson’s UK  2016). 

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are classified as: motor and non motor symptoms. The non motor symptoms can commonly be divided into three groups: autonomic; psychiatric and sensory (Bayulkem and Lopez 2010). The motor symptoms are those associated with movement and coordination and are the most common.

The RCN Neuroscience forum committee has been involved in the following activities related to Parkinson’s disease:

  • Endorsement of Parkinson’s UK teaching programmes for health and social care professionals
  • Participated in the consultation of the review of NICE guidance
  • RCN congress events regarding neurological nursing careers and becoming a Parkinson’s disease nurse specialist.


Bayulkem, K. and Lopez, G. (2010) ‘Nonmotor fluctuations in Parkinson’s disease: Clinical spectrum and classification’, Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 289(1-2), pp. 89–92.

Brigo, F., Erro, R., Marangi, A., Bhatia, K. and Tinazzi, M. (2014) ‘Differentiating drug-induced parkinsonism from Parkinson’s disease: An update on non-motor symptoms and investigations’, Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 20(8), pp. 808–814. 

De Renzis, F. (2015) European Parkinson’s disease association

Parkinson’s UK - about Parkinson’s 

NICE (2006) Parkinson’s disease in over 20s: Diagnosis and management

Page last updated - 27/06/2023