Epidemiology of Parkinson's disease

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2017 Aug;124(8):901-905. doi: 10.1007/s00702-017-1686-y. Epub 2017 Feb 1.


Parkinson's disease (PD) affects 1-2 per 1000 of the population at any time. PD prevalence is increasing with age and PD affects 1% of the population above 60 years. The main neuropathological finding is α-synuclein-containing Lewy bodies and loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, manifesting as reduced facilitation of voluntary movements. With progression of PD, Lewy body pathology spreads to neocortical and cortical regions. PD is regarded as a movement disorder with three cardinal signs: tremor, rigidity and bradykinesia. A recent revision of the diagnostic criteria excludes postural instability as a fourth hallmark and defines supportive criteria, absolute exclusion criteria and red flags. Non-motor symptoms in PD have gained increasing attention and both motor and non-motor signs are now included among the supportive criteria. The cause of PD is unknown in most cases. Genetic risk factors have been identified, including monogenetic causes that are rare in unselected populations. Some genetic factor can be identified in 5-10% of the patients. Several environmental factors are associated with increased risk of PD. Autopsy studies show that the clinical diagnosis of PD is not confirmed at autopsy in a significant proportion of patients. Revised diagnostic criteria are expected to improve the clinician´s accuracy in diagnosing PD. Increasing knowledge on genetic and environmental risk factors of PD will probably elucidate the cause of this disease within the near future.

Keywords: Diagnostic criteria; Epidemiology; Non-motor symptoms; Parkinson’s disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis
  • Parkinson Disease / epidemiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology