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Parkinson’s disease care

Allina Health neuroscience program can help patients with Parkinson’s disease and their families with diagnosis, treatment and resources.

Parkinson’s disease is a slow, progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by tremors, shaking, and loss of muscle control. Allina Health’s neuroscience program can help with diagnosis, treatment and treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to help patients live longer, fuller, more independent lives.

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What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder in which cells in the brain that produce dopamine stop working or die. Without dopamine, the cells that control movement can’t send proper messages to the  muscles, making it hard to control your muscles. The condition leads to shaking (tremors) and trouble walking and moving.

Parkinson’s disease most often develops after age 50. It is one of the most common nervous system problems in older adults.

  • The disease tends to affect men more than women, although women also develop the disease. Parkinson’s disease sometimes runs in families.
  • The disease can occur in younger adults. In such cases, it is often due to the person's genes.
  • Parkinson’s disease is rare in children.

How Parkinson’s is diagnosed

Your health care provider may be able to diagnose Parkinson’s disease based on your symptoms and a physical exam. But the symptoms can be hard to pin down, particularly in older adults. Symptoms are easier to recognize as the illness gets worse. Your provider may do some tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Symptoms may be mild at first. For instance, you may have a mild tremor or a slight feeling that one leg is stiff and dragging. Symptoms may affect one or both sides of the body.

General symptoms may include:

  • constipation
  • difficulty swallowing
  • drooling
  • low blood pressure when you stand up
  • muscle aches and pains
  • no expression in your face (like you are wearing a mask)
  • problems with balance and walking
  • rigid or stiff muscles
  • slow blinking
  • slowed, quieter speech and monotone voice
  • stooped posture
  • sweating and not being able to control your body temperature

Movement problems may include:

  • difficulty continuing to move
  • difficulty eating
  • difficulty starting movement, such as starting to walk or getting out of a chair
  • loss of fine hand movements (writing may become small and difficult to read)
  • slowed movements

Symptoms of shaking (tremors):

  • Can cause you to rub your finger and thumb together without meaning to (called pill-rolling tremor).
  • Eventually may occur in your head, lips, tongue and feet. 
  • Go away when you move.
  • May be worse when you are tired, excited or stressed.
  • Occur when your arm or leg is held out.
  • Usually occur when your limbs are not moving. This is called resting tremor.

Other symptoms may include:

  • anxiety, stress, and tension
  • confusion
  • dementia
  • depression
  • fainting
  • memory loss

Treatment options

There is no cure for Parkinson disease, but treatment can help control your symptoms, such as shaking and movement symptoms.

Surgery may be an option for some people. Surgery does not cure Parkinson disease, but it may help ease symptoms. Types of surgery include:

  • Deep brain stimulation. This involves placing electric stimulators in areas of the brain that control movement. You and your doctor should decide together if deep brain stimulation makes sense for you. To help you in deciding, please see our shared decision making aid: Should you have deep brain stimulation?
  • Surgery
  • Stem cell transplant and other procedures are being studied.

Certain lifestyle changes may help you cope with Parkinson disease:

  • Stay healthy by eating nutritious foods and not smoking.
  • Make changes in what you eat or drink if you have swallowing problems.
  • Use speech therapy to help you adjust to changes in your swallowing and speech.
  • Stay active as much as possible when you feel good. DO NOT overdo it when your energy is low.
  • Rest as needed during the day and avoid stress.
  • Use physical therapy and occupational therapy to help you stay independent and reduce the risk of falls.
  • Place handrails throughout your house to help prevent falls. Place them in bathrooms and along stairways.
  • Use assistive devices, when needed, to make movement easier. These devices may include special eating utensils, wheelchairs, bed lifts, shower chairs, and walkers.

Talk to a social worker or other counseling service to help you and your family cope with the disorder. These services can also help you get outside help, such as Meals on Wheels.

Parkinson’s at Allina Health

Allina Health is proud to partner with the American Parkinson Disease Association to host the Parkinson’s Disease Information & Referral Center for Minnesota.

The Parkinson’s Disease Information & Referral Center offers a variety of services and resources, including:

  • A help line available by phone and email: Call Anthony Tolefree, Program Director – APDA-MN at 651-706-1739 with any of your questions related to Parkinson’s disease or resources. You can also email

  • Referrals to local community resources including support groups, movement disorder specialists, counseling and therapy, caregiver resources, prescription assistance programs, social workers, home health care, speech pathologists, exercise classes and more.

  • An extensive collection of free informational and educational literature about Parkinson’s disease and symptom management. This collection is available to order by mail or email at no cost.
  • Free educational events throughout the year, open to people with Parkinson’s disease and their family members/care-partners, professionals who work with individuals with Parkinson’s disease, and anybody who is interested in learning more about Parkinson’s disease.

A financial grant program offering assistance to people with Parkinson’s disease in paying for medication, exercise classes, respite care, help at home services and more. 

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