Are you or a loved one trembling, shuffling or stooping? These may be signs of a serious disease.
Parkinson's disease is a serious condition that affects the nervous system. It is a progressive disorder, meaning that it starts slowly and gradually gets worse over time. Because all symptoms don't develop at once, early signs of the disease may not be that noticeable.
Finding out you have Parkinson's disease as early as possible may help you better manage symptoms and delay progression of the disease, even though there is no cure. If you notice any of these early signs, have them checked out by a doctor. Many symptoms may also be attributed to other causes, but it's best to rule out or confirm whether you have this neurological condition.
Early Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
Symptoms of Parkinson's disease often begin on only one side of the body and usually remain worse on that side, even once both sides become affected. Although early symptoms may be mild, they will continue to progress over time. All signs may not appear at once (or at all) and may be different from person to person.
- Tremors – If you notice a slight shaking in your hand or fingers when at rest, it may be a sign of Parkinson's disease. The shaking may not be as noticeable while you are performing tasks.
- Stiffness – You may feel stiffness in your body, arms or legs, limiting range of motion. It may take more effort to do tasks like getting out of a chair. You may shuffle your feet or walk slowly.
- Changes in posture and balance – You may stoop over, slouch or lean forward or to one side when you stand. You may also fall more easily or find it hard to keep your balance.
- Changes in handwriting – You may write differently than you used to. Words may be smaller and more crowded together as it becomes harder to control your fine motor movements.
- Changes in speech – You may speak more softly than you used to, sound hoarse, slur your words or be more monotone. You may also speak quickly or hesitate before talking.
- Fewer unconscious movements – Things you would typically do without thinking about, such as blinking or swinging your arms as you walk, may happen less frequently than they used to.
- Facial expressions – You may have a serious, mad or sad look on your face, even if you don't feel serious, mad or sad. This is called facial masking.
- Dizziness – You may feel dizzy or even faint when you change positions, such as getting out of bed or standing up after sitting.
- Sleep difficulties – You may toss and turn more than usual and make sudden movements in your sleep. Even though you may not notice these, your partner may.
- Loss of smell – It may be harder to smell things you used to smell.
- Constipation – You may find it harder to move your bowels.
If you have any of these symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, even if they seem mild, it's best to discuss them with your doctor. Although most of these symptoms may be attributed to other causes, you shouldn't ignore the possibility that you may have this chronic and progressive neurological condition.
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Date Last Reviewed: February 16, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD