Know about the symptoms of Parkinson’s

An estimated one million people in the United States have Parkinson’s disease. However, there is still a great deal many don’t understand about the condition and those who suffer from it. This lack of knowledge can lead to people with Parkinson’s disease not having their symptoms recognized, their disease going untreated and it could have a serious impact on their quality of life. Learning more about Parkinson’s can help people with symptoms receive an earlier diagnosis which could help with early intervention.

What is it?

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that impacts the nervous system. The exact cause is unknown and there is no cure, but there are a number of treatment options available. The condition mainly affects dopamine-producing neurons in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The condition often begins in middle or late life, and the risk of developing it increases as we age. Although, the symptoms vary from person to person, commonly people with Parkinson’s disease experience hand tremors, slow body movements, balance problems, rigid muscles, speech problems and handwriting changes.

Because the outward symptoms are so well known, many people make the mistake of believing that Parkinson’s disease only impacts the motor functions. But, the lesser known or “invisible” symptoms of the disease are completely unrelated to movement and could have a greater effect on a person’s quality of life. These invisible symptoms could also be early indicators of the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Non-motor or invisible Parkinson’s symptoms can include:

  •          Trouble sleeping or sudden jerking movements during sleep 
  •       Reduced sense of smell
  •          Dizziness
  •          Anxiety
  •          Depression
  •          Fatigue
  •          Pain
  •          Constipation
  •          Bladder problems
  •          Sexual dysfunction
Quality of life

A study of 750 people recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford in England found that 99 percent “had at least one ‘non-motor’ symptom, and many suffered five or more. A number of these symptoms were apparently untreated, despite the availability of effective treatments.” According to the research, the study’s participants were also more impacted by their invisible symptoms than tremors or movement problems. Depression, anxiety and fatigue were most commonly cited as the symptoms that lowered the quality of life. Fortunately, the motor and non-motor invisible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are treatable and both can be managed with medical interventions.

If you are experiencing two or more of the non-motor symptoms and/or motor symptoms such as shaking, slow movements, stiffness and balancing trouble, you may want to consult your physician about testing for Parkinson’s disease. If you have already been diagnosed with the disease, you can also work with your doctor to create a plan for maintaining your mental and physical health. This could include being referred to a specialist such as a neurologist; therapies (occupational, physical, and speech); following a diet and exercise program and consulting a social worker to assess your mental and social well-being. This teamwork approach can be extremely beneficial for your total health and greatly improve your quality of life.


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