Today, April 11th is World Parkinson’s Day. British doctor James Parkinson first discovered Parkinson’s disease exactly 200 years ago in 1817. He published an article titled “Essay on the Shaking Palsy” that described the symptoms of the disease that would be named after him. Sadly, Dr. Parkinson was not able to discern an exact cause or a cure the disease, a question that scientists and doctors are still trying to find answers for 200 years later. Some researchers believe that Parkinson’s is genetic like other diseases. Other researchers believe that Parkinson’s may have been caused by a viral infection or an adverse reaction to environmental toxins like pesticides.

Parkinson’s disease affects millions worldwide, impacting mostly the elderly but younger people could still experience symptoms. Famous examples of those that suffer from Parkinson’s disease include actor Michael J. Fox, who had experienced symptoms of early-onset Parkinson’s when he was only in his early 30s, and the late Muhammad Ali, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was in his 40s due to the repeated blows to the head he experienced throughout his boxing career.

This disease causes irreversible brain cell loss and damage to the central nervous system. The result of this degenerative condition is that less dopamine is produced and the striatum, one of the areas of the brain that coordinates movement, is unable to function properly. Those that suffer from Parkinson’s experience symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, imbalance, and slow movement.

Because there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, the best way to prevent it from taking over you or your loved one’s life is through treatment. Most treatment options involve restoring the imbalance of neurotransmitters and regulate nervous system operation so your body won’t be making movements against your will. There are several prescription medications that can correct this chemical imbalance. However, if medication is not enough to control symptoms, there are a few surgical procedures that can be an option.

Hopefully one day, we can find a cure for Parkinson’s disease so that surgery or an extensive regime of medication will no longer be necessary for those that have the disease and would like free control over their bodies once more.