Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition affecting the central nervous, which in turn, affects your movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. And while tremors may be the most well-known sign of Parkinson’s disease, the disorder can also bring about slower mobility and stiffness.
In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your arms may not swing when walking, your speech may become slurred or soft, or your face may show little or no expression. A combination of these three symptoms can start occurring spontaneously and simultaneously.
Unfortunately, Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.
While there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are a few cutting-edge medications on the market, which can markedly improve your symptoms. In some more severe progressive cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms.
The severity and type of symptoms experienced by a person with Parkinson’s disease vary with each individual and the stage of Parkinson’s disease. Early-stage symptoms in one person may not develop until later,or not at all in another person. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides. Additionally, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease typically begin appearing between the ages 50 and 60. They develop slowly and often go unnoticed by family, friends, and even the person who has them.
Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include the following:
Slowed Movement (bradykinesia): Over time, Parkinson’s disease may reduce your ability to move, and it may make simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk, or you may find it difficult to get out of a chair. Also, your feet may stick to the floor as you try to walk, making it difficult to move. It also may be difficult to move from a resting position, such as your bed.
Tremors: Tremors or shaking, often in a legs, arm and hands, are usually the most obvious sign of the onset of Parkinson’s. These tremors can occur when the person is awake and sitting or standing still, also called resting tremors, and subsides when the person moves the affected body part. You may notice a back-and-forth rubbing of your thumb and forefinger, known as a pill-rolling tremor.
Loss of Automatic Movements: In Parkinson’s disease, you may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including smiling, blinking or swinging your arms when you walk. You may no longer gesture when you talk either. You also may experience difficulty with walking and balance. You’re likely to take small steps and shuffle with your feet close together, have a stooped posture and have trouble turning around. Posture and balance problems may result in frequent falls, but this issue usually does not develop until later stages.
Stiff and Rigid Muscles: Stiff muscles and aching muscles usually occur, one of the most common early signs of Parkinson’s disease as well. Rigidity can affect the muscles of the arms, legs, face, neck, or other parts of the body and may cause muscles to feel tired and achy. Muscle stiffness may also occur in other parts of your body, not just the aforementioned. The stiff muscles can limit your range of motion and cause you pain. You also may have trouble talking and swallowing due to stiff facial and neck muscles, causing drooling, coughing and choking. Loss of movement in the muscles in the face can cause a fixed, vacant facial expression, known as “Parkinson’s mask.”
Speech and Writing Changes: You often may have speech problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease. You may speak quickly, softly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone, rather than with the usual inflections. Additionally, writing may appear small and become difficult as well.
Medications can significantly reduce many of these symptoms, and these medications increase or substitute for a specific neurotransmitter in your brain. This neurotransmitter is primarily dopamine.
People with Parkinson’s disease have low brain dopamine concentrations. If you suspect yourself or a loved one showing signs of Parkinson’s disease, consult a doctor if any of these symptoms crop up. A doctor will be able to not only diagnose your condition but also rule out other causes for your symptoms.
David Novak is a international syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV around the world. His byline has appeared in GQ, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, among others, and he has appeared on The Today Show, the CBS Morning Show and Paul Harvey Radio. David is a specialist at consumer technology, health and fitness, and he also owns a PR firm and a consulting company where he and his staff focus on these industries. He is a regular contributing editor for Healthline. For more information, visit http://www.healthline.com/.