Parkinson’s disease: Recognize early onset symptoms
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological movement disorder. Classic motor symptoms, such as tremor, rigidity and extreme slowness of movements and reflexes, called bradykinesia, are typically used to identify Parkinson’s. However, identification of other, more subtle symptoms may help identify the disease years before more obvious motor conditions present themselves. Since Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive neurological disease, symptoms are often mild at the onset, becoming more severe over time. Initial symptoms may be so subtle that they’re even difficult for specialists to detect, according to the The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Symptoms also may be different for some patients than others and may progress at different paces. Dopamine loss is a major contributor to the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine controls movement and mood, so when dopamine is affected, walking, talking and writing can be impacted. Depression or anxiety may accompany other symptoms. The National Institutes of Health says Parkinson’s disease affects as many as 500,000 people in the United States. An early diagnosis may help improve quality of life and delay the onset of greater motor issues. Here’s what to look for and discuss with a doctor. • Micrographia and other handwriting issues occur. Those with Parkinson’s disease may start experiencing changes in their handwriting. Penmanship may look cramped, and letters tend to be smaller than normal (micrographia). Individuals may find it difficult to hold a pen and write. • Tremors take place in a limb. Tremors usually begin in the hands or fingers and may even mimic a pill-rolling technique, which is a tremor between the thumb and forefinger. Tremors usually occur when the limb is at rest. • Pace or activities slow down. Parkinson’s disease may reduce one’s ability to move and may slow down movements. An early symptom may be a noticeable slowing down in steps or ability to react to something, like a ball being thrown one’s way. Some with Parkinson’s may drag their feet or shuffle as they walk or find it difficult to get out of a chair. • Loss of automatic movements and functions can occur. Difficulty with unconscious movements, such as blinking, smiling or even swinging arms, may occur when a person has Parkinson’s disease. Movements may be uncoordinated and stiff. Increased salivation and perspiration also may be indicators. • Poor balance and loss of posture may develop. People with Parkinson’s disease may hunch over more and more and be unable to stand up straight. Balance issues, such as greater incidences of falls or being able to tip over more easily, may occur. • Speech can change. Changes in speech can begin, including hesitating before speaking, slurring words or speaking in a monotone voice. • Others may notice a masked face. This describes a vacant or fixed stare and lack of facial animation. • Sleep issues may increase. Parkinson’s disease can affect sleeping patterns and behaviors. People with Parkinson’s may experience vivid dreams and nightmares, as well as an inability to stay asleep. Daytime drowsiness may also occur. Parkinson’s disease is rare, and symptoms that mimic those of Parkinson’s may be caused by other conditions. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing repeated symptoms of any of the ones described here, speak with your general practitioner or a neurologist.