Parkinsonism is a clinical condition that is characterized by the following: gradual slowing of voluntary movement (bradykinesia); muscular rigidity; stooped posture; distinctive gait with
698 Parkinson's Disease short, accelerating steps; diminished facial expression; and resting tremor. Parkinson's disease occurs with progressive parkinsonism in the absence of a toxic or known etiology and is a progressively degenerative disease of the substantia nigra and basal ganglia. Parkinson's disease is also called paralysis agitans.
Degeneration of the substantia nigra in the basal ganglia of the midbrain leads to depletion of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is normally produced and stored in this location. Dopamine promotes smooth, purposeful movements and modulation of motor function. Depletion of dopamine leads to impairment of the extrapyramidal tracts and consequent loss of movement coordination.
Complications include injuries from falls, skin breakdown from immobility, and urinary tract infections. Death is usually caused by aspiration pneumonia or other infection.
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