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Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that targets brain cells that control movement. Symptoms include tremors, stiffness and poor balance, as well as depression or dementia. Some patients experience impairments of the "autonomic" nervous system, the part of the nervous system that helps control blood pressure as well as the bowel and bladder.

The disease, which affects about 1 million people in the United States, targets neurons that produce an important chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that transmits signals within the brain. Normally, dopamine operates in a delicate balance with other neurotransmitters to help coordinate the millions of nerve and muscle cells involved in movement. Because Parkinson's patients have a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain, the coordination among nerve and muscle cells is disrupted.

The cause of the disease is unknown.

Our Approach to Parkinson's Disease

Designated a center of excellence by the Parkinson's Foundation, UCSF offers comprehensive evaluations and treatment plans designed to maximize patients' quality of life. Treatment plans may include medications or surgery alongside physical therapy, nutrition counseling, consultations with speech and swallowing specialists, and integrative medicine services. We also host support groups and connect patients and their families to outside support groups and related services.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-neurology

    Best in California and No. 2 in the nation for neurology & neurosurgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.