Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, which means symptoms persist and worsen over time. It is classified as a neurodegenerative disease because of the characteristic degeneration of bodily tissues. Over 100,000 Canadians and nearly 1 million people in the United States are currently living with PD, with ten more receiving this life-altering diagnosis each day.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when cells in the substantia nigra, an important motor centre of the brain, malfunction and die. These cells are responsible for the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that sends information to brain structures that control movement and coordination. When these cells become compromised, the production of dopamine drops. Messages from the brain telling the body how and when to move are no longer delivered as quickly and this results in loss of control over movement, muscle control, and balance.



Because symptoms change in appearance and severity over time, no two people with Parkinson’s will follow the same disease progression. Primary symptoms include:

Motor Symptoms

Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
Rigidity and freezing in place
Stooped, shuffling gait
Decreased arm swing when walking
Difficulty arising from a chair
Micrographia (small handwriting)
Lack of facial expression
Slowed activities of daily living
Postural instability
Difficulty turning in bed

Non-Motor Symptoms

Diminished sense of smell
Low voice volume
Painful foot cramps
Sleep disturbance
Increased sweating
Urinary frequency/urgency
Male erectile dysfunction


Parkinson’s will progress at different rates for different people. As a result, treatment plans must be individual-specific and are subject to change as motor and non-motor symptoms shift. Essential to these treatment plans is a treatment team whose aim is to optimize health and quality of life.

According to Hoehn and Yahr, Parkinson’s disease can be broken down into five stages:

Stage I: Symptoms are restricted to one side of the body
Stage II: Symptoms spread to both sides of the body
Stage III: Balance is impaired
Stage IV: Assistance is required to walk and other symptoms are severe
Stage V: Symptom severity escalates and a wheelchair is required


There is currently no permanent cure for this chronic, progressive disease. However, there are medications and treatment options that may assist in managing symptoms and a number of ongoing studies that show a great deal of promise and hope for the future. Lows in Motion is proud to raise funds that help support current treatment options and explore new ones.