The Language of Parkinson’s Disease


Alpha-synuclein: a protein that is found primarily in neurons and accumulates to form Lewy bodies in people affected with Parkinson’s disease.

Anxiety: mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event.

Big and Loud: Big and Loud therapy is a training program that is designed to deal with movement and speech problems.

Bradykinesia: Impaired and slow movement of limbs of the body.

Carbidopa Levodopa: medication used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (such as shakiness, stiffness, difficulty moving). Example: Sinemet.

Caregiver:  a general term referring to anyone who provides care for a person who needs extra help. This could mean a family caregiver, a respite caregiver, a home caregiver, or a primary caregiver, to name but a few.

Care Partner: usually the spouse or significant-other. Someone who lives with the person with Parkinson’s disease, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor:  inhibits the action of catechol-O-methyl transferase, an enzyme which is involved in degrading neurotransmitters.

Centers of Excellence: specialized programs within healthcare institutions which supply exceptionally high concentrations of expertise and related resources centered on particular medical areas and delivered in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary fashion. For Parkinson’s disease, a Center of Excellence is a health care institution that has been recognized by the Parkinson’s Foundation for being a medical center “with a specialized team of neurologists, movement disorder specialists, rehabilitation professionals, mental health professionals, surgeons, and others with deep expertise in the latest PD medications, therapies, and research, to provide the best care.”

Cognitive decline: gradual decline of mental facilities.

Constipation: infrequent, irregular, or difficult evacuation of the bowels.

DBS: Deep brain stimulation. Implantation of a device to send electrical signals to the brain.

Delusions: fixed, false conviction in something that is not real or shared by other people.

Depression: persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities.

Dopamine Agonists:  medication that stimulates parts of the human brain influenced by dopamine. In effect, the brain is tricked into thinking it is receiving the dopamine it needs. In general, dopamine agonists are not as potent as carbidopa/levodopa and may be less likely to cause dyskinesias.

Dopamine precursor: drug which can pass through to the brain and readily get converted to dopamine. Helps in managing Parkinson’s disease. Examples: Carbidopa Levodopa, Sinemet.

Dyskinesia: uncontrolled, involuntary movements of the face, arms, or legs.

Dysphagia: a condition with difficulty in swallowing food or liquid.

Dystonia: unintentional sustained muscle contractions leading to abnormal postures.

Festinating: a walking gait (as in Parkinson’s disease) characterized by involuntary acceleration.

Gait: the manner or style of walking.

Grab Bars: safety devices designed to enable a person to maintain balance, lessen fatigue while standing, hold some of their weight while maneuvering, or have something to grab onto in case of a slip or fall.

Hallucinations: an experience in which you see, hear, feel, or smell something that does not exist.

Impaired gait: deviation in the pattern of walking (freezing, shuffling).

Lewy Body dementia: a progressive dementia that results from protein deposits in nerve cells of brain. It affects movement, thinking skills, mood, memory, and behavior.

MAO-B inhibitors: medication that increases the amount of dopamine in the basal ganglia by inhibiting the activity an enzyme that breaks down dopamine.

Microbiome: the full genetic complement of bacteria and other organisms at home on your skin, gums, and teeth, in your genital tract, and especially in your gut.

Movement disorder specialist (MDS): a neurologist with additional training in Parkinson’s disease (PD) who personalizes care to an individual’s symptoms and needs. People with Parkinson’s who see a movement disorder specialist often report feeling more informed and better equipped to manage symptoms.

Multi-task: deal with more than one task at the same time.

Neuron: the fundamental units of the brain and nervous system, the cells responsible for receiving sensory input from the external world, for sending motor commands to our muscles, and for transforming and relaying the electrical signals at every step in between.

Neuro-ophthalmologist: a neuro-ophthalmologist is a physician specializing in diseases affecting vision that originate from the nervous system.

Neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections.

Neuropsychologist: neuropsychologists have more training than a psychologist; this training helps them assess neurological as well as psychological disorders.

Orthostatic Hypotension: low blood pressure that happens when standing after sitting or lying down. Orthostatic hypotension can cause dizziness or lightheadedness and possibly fainting.

OT (Occupational Therapy): therapy based on engagement in meaningful activities of daily life (such as self-care skills, education, work, or social interaction) to enable or encourage participation in such activities despite impairments or limitations in physical or mental functioning.

Paraquat: Paraquat is used primarily to control grass and weeds. Its use in the United States is restricted because of its high level of toxicity.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD):  a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, tremors, rigidity, and difficulty with balance and coordination.

Parkinsonism: a syndrome characterized by tremor, muscular rigidity, slowness of movement, and postural abnormalities, caused by Parkinson’s disease or other diseases or induced by trauma, infection, or a drug.

PT (Physical Therapy): the treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as massage, heat treatment, and exercise rather than by drugs or surgery.

PWP: a person with Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes written as PwP. There are sites on the Internet, Facebook and social media that have other abbreviations, such a HWPs (husbands with Parkinson’s), FWPs (Fathers with Parkinson’s), LOWPs (Loved ones with Parkinson’s), and so on.

REM Sleep disorder: a sleep disorder in which the patient acts out the dreams through limb movements and talking.

Substantia Nigra: structure located in the midbrain that plays an important role in reward and movement. Substantia nigra is Latin for “black substance”, reflecting the fact that parts of the substantia nigra appear darker than neighboring areas due to high levels of neuromelanin in dopaminergic neurons.

Tremors: unintentional trembling or shaking movements in one or more parts of the body.

UTI: urinary tract infection.

Walker, Scooter, Wheelchair: devices that assist with mobility.

Scroll to Top