Parkinson’s disease is a serious nervous system disease that can be debilitating to your health and have far-reaching effects on your personal life. Estimates suggest that about one million people in the United States are living with Parkinson’s disease, and about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year.

Research has yet to find the specific cause of Parkinson’s disease, and there is no known cure. However, medications and therapy can help to significantly manage symptoms, enough that you can live a full, rich life with minimal problems. Much like with other diseases, catching Parkinson’s early is the key to controlling symptoms and preventing the disease from getting dramatically worse. Understanding the early signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s can help you detect the disease sooner than later. Read on to learn more about the early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system. It is a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms of the diagnosis can get worse over time. The brain disorder mainly affects neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. The disease largely affects your movement, like how you walk or lift your arms, but its effects on your nerves mean that it can have a comprehensive influence on all your motor functions, both big and small.

Common Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

The exact Parkinson’s symptoms can vary from person to person, and the disease’s gradual progression means that Parkinson’s symptoms may not become truly apparent for a few years. Typically, symptoms of Parkinson’s start on just one side of your body and stay worse on that side.

Tremors

Knowing the difference between essential tremor and Parkinson’s is extremely important. Tremors refer to involuntary slight shaking that starts in one of your limbs, usually your hands or fingers. This may look like your hand trembling even when it’s at rest, or you may have a pill-rolling tremor, which manifests as rubbing your thumb and index finger together.

Bradykinesia

Bradykinesia is the medical term for slow movement. Over time, Parkinson’s may significantly slow down your basic motor functions, making everyday tasks more time-consuming or difficult than you are used to. You may drag your feet while you walk, or your steps may be shorter.

Limb Rigidity

Parkinson’s disease frequently causes stiff or rigid muscles, especially in your limbs. This rigidity can be painful and prevent you from using your full range of motion.

Trouble with Automatic Movements

There are certain movements that your body performs automatically, with you needing to provide any conscious input, including blinking, swallowing, or swinging your arms when you walk. Parkinson’s disease can contribute to a loss of these automatic movements which is why it is important to perform coordination exercises for Parkinson’s patients.

These symptoms play an intrinsic role in diagnosing the disease. While there is no singular test for Parkinson’s disease, you generally need to exhibit tremors, bradykinesia, and rigid muscles to be considered for a diagnosis.

Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

In its earliest stages, Parkinson’s disease can be difficult to identify. Most early signs can be easy to mistake for a separate disease or disorder or may be ignored altogether. Sudden tremors, while you are at rest remain the most characteristic early sign of the disease, but some other early symptoms include:

Smaller Handwriting

Writing can potentially change as you get older, especially when you have poor vision or experience stiffness in your hands and fingers, but it may also be a sign of Parkinson’s. With reduced control of your muscles, writing, in general, can become increasingly difficult. You may notice general changes in your handwriting, but those with Parkinson’s frequently write with smaller letters that are often crowded closely together. 

Sleep Troubles

Sleep problems are common among many people, whether or not they have Parkinson’s disease. However, those with Parkinson’s may experience sleep troubles stemming from sudden movements during sleep. The lack of muscle control may result in you thrashing your limbs in bed or potentially even acting out your dreams while you are in deep sleep. This can leave you tired and physically fatigued when you are awake.

Loss of Smell

Loss of smell is a common but frequently missed symptom of Parkinson’s disease, but it can be a good early indicator of the disease. A weakened sense of smell or taste may occur years before Parkinson’s manifests any motor symptoms. This comes from the way that Parkinson’s disease affects the nerves in your olfactory system, which weakens or completely hinders your ability to smell. As smell is closely linked to taste, you may also notice that food tastes blander than it actually is.

Hindered Movement and Walking

As you get older, it is generally normal for you to lose some of your mobility. Your muscles may get weaker, and your joints may not have the same flexibility or range of motion. For many people, even in old age, any stiffness typically goes away as you move, warming up your joints and muscles. However, if you have Parkinson’s, you may experience ongoing stiffness or rigidity no matter how much you move. This may be most common in the shoulders and hips, and some people with Parkinson’s disease say that it feels like their feet are stuck to the floor.

Constipation

Constipation can come from numerous sources, like a poor diet or taking certain medication. Parkinson’s disease can lead to ongoing constipation, regardless of any changes to your diet. The reduced muscle control may force you to strain harder when trying to move your bowels.

Voice Changes

Parkinson’s disease can also affect the muscles that control the pitch and volume of your voice. Your voice may suddenly sound softer to the point of whispering. You may be unintentionally speaking lower, or your voice may seem unnaturally hoarse.

Facial Masking

The effects of Parkinson’s disease may contribute to a frozen face or an inability to control your facial muscles. This can result in you looking constantly mad, sad, or serious even when you are not in a bad mood.

Bad Posture

Weakened muscle control in your core and back from Parkinson’s disease may result in poor posture. You or your loved ones may notice that you are stooping, slouching, or hunched over more, even though you feel like you are standing straight.

Fainting or Dizziness

Parkinson’s and other neurologic disorders can contribute to a condition called neurogenic orthostatic hypotension. Parkinson’s disease can contribute to the damage that prevents the nervous system from synthesizing enough norepinephrine. This chemical constricts blood vessels and essentially keeping your blood pressure up. Not enough norepinephrine can lead to drops in blood pressure, resulting in dizziness or fainting.

Taken individually, none of these symptoms are particularly alarming, and they can be easy to ignore. However, if you experience several of these early symptoms, along with other notable health issues, it is a good idea to see your doctor to determine if you do have Parkinson’s disease or visit Immunity Therapy Center. Remember, the sooner you get diagnosed, the sooner you can receive treatment and medication to manage your symptoms.

 

Sources:

  1. Parkinson’s Foundation. Parkinson’s Statistics. https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Statistics
  2. Parkinson’s Foundation. What Is Parkinson’s? https://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons
  3. Parkinson’s Foundation. 10 Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease. https://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/10-early-warning-signs
  4. Oppo, Valentina et al. “”Smelling and Tasting” Parkinson’s Disease: Using Senses to Improve the Knowledge of the Disease.” Frontiers in aging neuroscience vol. 12 43. 25 Feb. 2020, https://www.doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2020.00043
  5. Parkinson’s Foundation. Dizziness or Fainting. https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Symptoms/Movement-Symptoms/Dizziness-or-Fainting 
September 6, 2021

Dr. Carlos Bautista is a Board Certified Medical Doctor. He received his Medical Degree from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California and has more than 20 years of experience working with Alternative Medicine to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic degenerative diseases, and infectious diseases. He opened Immunity Therapy Center in 2007 with the goal of providing the highest quality medical care for more than 5,000 patients.

At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.