At the University of Chicago Medicine Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, our neurology experts understand that effective care is customized to the unique symptoms and needs of each patient. As an American Parkinson's Disease Association-certified center, we specialize in the treatment and management of complicated and rare movement disorders, as well as symptoms of progressive neurodegenerative diseases.

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disease of the nervous system that causes impaired or involuntary movements and can affect behavior, mood and other non-motor functions of the body. PD is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time. Diagnosis usually occurs after age 55, though early onset at a younger age is also possible.

Parkinson's disease is caused by the progressive loss of a certain type of neuron cells in the brain. This results in a shortage of the chemical messenger called dopamine, which is important for controlling the body’s motor functions.

Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

  • Tremor, most commonly starting in the hands but can also occur in the tongue, jaw and legs
  • Stiff or rigid muscles (spasticity)
  • Slow movement (bradykinesia)
  • Decreased vocal volume
  • Lack of facial expression
  • Abnormally small handwriting (micrographia)
  • Shuffling gait (an impaired walk, as if the feet are stuck to the floor)
  • Decreased arm movement when walking
  • Difficulty with balance, posture or gait, which may result in falls

PD symptoms can often be controlled with medication alone, or with a combination of medication and surgical intervention, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), for patients who meet certain criteria. The extent to which symptoms can be reduced depends on each patient’s individual circumstances. At UChicago Medicine, our goal is to improve symptoms so our patients can enjoy the highest possible quality of life.

Essential Tremor

Essential tremor, also known as benign familial tremor, is the most common movement disorder. Characterized by uncontrollable shaking, essential tremor progresses slowly. It is distinctly different from Parkinson’s disease, although commonly misdiagnosed. Some patients may have essential tremor and PD.

Symptoms of Essential Tremor

  • Difficulty with precise tasks (threading a needle)
  • Excessive shaking in hands
  • Inability to dress or feed yourself
  • Shaking in tongue
  • Shaking in arms
  • Tremor in voice
  • Tremor in neck

Treatment plans for essential tremor may involve medication, surgery or a combination of both. Initial treatment often includes propranolol or primidone, which are medications that have proven effective in about half of patients. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery is a highly effective treatment option for patients who are eligible candidates.

Conditions We Treat

In addition to Parkinson's Disease and Essential Tremor, our neurologists are experts in treating:

  • Ataxia 
  • Blepharospasm
  • Chorea
  • Cortical basal degeneration (CBD)
  • Dystonia
  • Dyskinesias
  • Hemifacial spasm
  • Huntington's disease (HD)
  • Multiple system atrophy (MSA)
  • Myoclonus
  • Parkinsonian syndrome
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)
  • Tics
  • Tourette syndrome (TS)
  • Rett syndrome
  • Wilson's disease
Parkinson's disease patient Cheng Xiu Xu, who was treated by physicians Tao Xie, MD, PhD, and Peter Warnke, MD, plays ping pong at her apartment building

Deep Brain Stimulation Helps Woman Regain Control of Parkinson's Symptoms

Cheng Xiu Xu's Parkinson's symptoms became too much for her and her neurologist. She turned to UChicago Medicine experts for relief. Now that she's doing better, she can once again enjoy her favorite sport: ping-pong.

Read Xu's Story

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