Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons has four main symptoms:
- Tremor in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- Muscle stiffness, where muscle remains contracted for a long time
- Slowness of movement
- Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls
Other symptoms may include:
The symptoms of Parkinsons and the rate of progression differ among individuals. Early symptoms of this disease are subtle and occur gradually. For example, people may feel mild tremors or have difficulty getting out of a chair. They may notice that they speak too softly, or that their handwriting is slow and looks cramped or small. Friends or family members may be the first to notice changes in someone with early Parkinsons. They may see that the persons face lacks expression and animation, or that the person does not move an arm or leg normally.
People with Parkinson’s disease often develop a parkinsonian gait that includes a tendency to lean forward take small, quick steps and reduce swinging their arms. They also may have trouble initiating or continuing movement.
Symptoms often begin on one side of the body or even in one limb on one side of the body. As the disease progresses, it eventually affects both sides. However, the symptoms may still be more severe on one side than on the other.
To Support The Parkinsons Diagnosis Your Healthcare Provider Will Also Look For Other Symptoms:
- Reduced facial expression
- or leg drag on one side of the body while walking
Symptoms such as shoulder pain, depression, sleep problems, constipation and loss of sense of smell can begin long before any of the motor symptoms appear. Because symptoms like these can be subtle at first, they are not always evident or meaningful before diagnosis. It is common after a Parkinsons diagnosis to look back and realize symptoms had been coming on gradually for months or even years. Often people explore other treatment avenues for early symptoms, like physical therapy or even surgery for pain, only to discover later it was actually connected to Parkinsons.
Since doctors diagnose other medical conditions using sophisticated technology, many are surprised to learn a Parkinsons diagnosis is based on your medical history and a simple examination. While your healthcare provider may take other steps, such as order blood and urine tests, check copper levels and order a brain scan, such as an MRI or CT or DaTscan that measures dopamine, these tests do not a Parkinsons diagnosis. They are used to either confirm the diagnosis or determine if another medical condition is causing your symptoms.
Ive Just Been Diagnosed With Parkinsons Now What
When youre newly diagnosed, we know there are a million questions about what this means for your life, your family, and your livelihood. Were here to help.
The most important thing we can tell you upfront is that Parkinson Disease affects each individual differently. Your symptoms may develop gradually or suddenly, range in degree, and you may experience symptoms that other PWPs dont or vice-versa. Parkinson Disease is actually an umbrella term used to describe a suite of conditions that all have the same outcome: dopamine is not processed appropriately in the brain. While its not always possible to tell exactly where the process is disrupted, this results in symptoms like tremors, rigidity, sleep disturbances, speech problems, and depression. These symptoms can be treated with medications, therapeutic modalities like exercise, and in some cases, surgery. You can find the answers to many basic questions about Parkinsons on our FAQ page.
As you begin your Parkinsons journey, know that there is no right or wrong way to go about it. It is a deeply personal path and you will discover what works for you in time. Some people are not ready to be a big part of the PD community right away others find great comfort in diving in. Right now the options are broader than ever before many exercise and support groups currently have online or virtual options to allow people to stay connected and moving while adhering to Covid safety guidelines.
Recommended Reading: Does Parkinson’s Affect The Eyes
A Primer On Parkinsons For The Newly Diagnosed
Hearing the words, You have Parkinsons, is life changing. For some, a Parkinsons diagnosis may mark the end of a long and frustrating search to explain a collection of different and seemingly disconnected symptoms. For others, a Parkinsons diagnosis is a complete shock, filled with feelings of disbelief and despair. For everyone, a Parkinsons diagnosis brings a new and unexpected journey.
Parkinsons is not life-threatening, but it is progressive. This means that symptoms and effects of Parkinsons will change and get worse over time. Parkinsons is also very complex and can affect almost every part of the body, ranging from how you move to how you feel to how you think and process. When you are first diagnosed, the sheer amount of information and the uniqueness of each persons experience of Parkinsons can be incredibly overwhelming.
In this article, we help you navigate to the right information so you can get started on your path to living well with Parkinsons.
Since no two cases of Parkinsons are ever exactly alike, Parkinsons can be very difficult to diagnose. Some people experience a journey of months and even years as they visit different specialists to determine what is causing early and often seemingly disconnected symptoms like constipation, depression, foot cramping or shoulder pain.
Help Them Feel Normalcy
A disease like Parkinsons can interfere with the normalcy of someones life. Because people may focus so much on the disease and its symptoms, your loved one may start to lose their sense of self.
When you talk with your loved one, dont constantly remind them that they have a chronic disease. Talk about other things like their favorite new movie or book.
You May Like: How Quickly Does Parkinson’s Dementia Progress
Diagnosis Of Parkinsons Disease
There are currently no blood or laboratory tests to diagnose non-genetic cases of Parkinsons. Doctors usually diagnose the disease by taking a persons medical history and performing a neurological examination. If symptoms improve after starting to take medication, its another indicator that the person has Parkinsons.
A number of disorders can cause symptoms similar to those of Parkinsons disease. People with Parkinsons-like symptoms that result from other causes, such as multiple system atrophy and dementia with Lewy bodies, are sometimes said to have parkinsonism. While these disorders initially may be misdiagnosed as Parkinsons, certain medical tests, as well as response to drug treatment, may help to better evaluate the cause. Many other diseases have similar features but require different treatments, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible.
Is Early Diagnosis Possible
Experts are becoming more aware of symptoms of Parkinsons that precede physical manifestations. Clues to the disease that sometimes show up before motor symptoms and before a formal diagnosis are called prodromal symptoms. These include the loss of sense of smell, a sleep disturbance called REM behavior disorder, ongoing constipation thats not otherwise explained and mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Research into these and other early symptoms holds promise for even more sensitive testing and diagnosis.
For example, biomarker research is trying to answer the question of who gets Parkinsons disease. Researchers hope that once doctors can predict that a person with very early symptoms will eventually get Parkinsons disease, those patients can be appropriately treated. At the very least, these advances could greatly delay progression.
Stay Positive After Your Parkinson’s Diagnosis
There is no doubt that a positive outlook, with a determination to overcome obstacles, will help you adapt to life with Parkinsons and, given time, you will be able to continue pursuing the activities and relationships that make your life enjoyable and meaningful.
For information on looking after your personal health and maintaining a good quality of life with Parkinsons see Living well.
Ben Petrick: The Major League With Parkinson’s
Ben Petrick dreamed of a stellar baseball career as a catcher with the Colorado Rockies. He played in 240 Major League games, the majority of which came after Parkinson’s disease struck him at age 22 in 2000. He retired from baseball in 2004.
He’s since authored Forty Thousand to One, a book whose title in part references the 40,000 Americans diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year. The book also recounts his experiences in Major League Baseball while coping with Parkinson’s disease. According to an ESPN interview, Petrick’s father was also diagnosed with the condition but maintains a positive attitude, saying that although he has Parkinson’s, Parkinson’s doesn’t have him.
Read Also: Can Parkinson’s Disease Cause Seizures
Find More Practical Articles Like This
Much more can be found in a powerful new edition of Davis Phinney Foundations free Every Victory Counts® manual. The Every Victory Counts manual gives people living with Parkinsons, their care partners and their family members the tools they need to take control of their own Parkinsons treatment through a proactive approach to self-care.
Its jam-packed with up-to-date information about everything Parkinsons, plus an expanded worksheets and resources section to help you put what youve learned into action. Color coding and engaging graphics help guide you through the written material and point you to complementary videos, podcasts and other materials on the Every Victory Counts companion website. And, it is still free of charge thanks to the generosity of our sponsors.
Request your copy of the new Every Victory Counts manual by clicking the button below.
Let’s Talk: Discussing The Diagnosis And Navigating Family Dynamics
In this hour long talk at the 2019 CurePSP Family Conference, Jessica Shurer, MSW, LCSW discusses how to explain your diagnosis to people unfamiliar with it in understandable terms, and how family members and caregivers can help with this conversation. While the diagnosis referred to in this talk is progressive supranuclear palsy , which is a parkinsonism with similarities to Parkinson’s Disease, the concept is the same.
Ms. Shurer gave a similar half-hour talk at the CurePSP Family Conference in Nov. 2020. That talk is posted on the CurePSP YouTube channel.
Recommended Reading: How Do They Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease
Eat A Healthy Balanced Diet
Theres no one specific diet for Parkinsons. But a nutritious diet thats high in fruits, vegetables and whole, unprocessed foods is good for your body and brain. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian to craft a diet that helps you manage your Parkinsons symptoms and feel energized and healthy.
What Causes The Condition
Although there are several recognized risk factors for Parkinsons disease, such as exposure to pesticides, for now, the only confirmed causes of Parkinsons disease are genetic. When Parkinsons disease isnt genetic, experts classify it as idiopathic . That means they dont know exactly why it happens.
Many conditions look like Parkinson’s disease but are instead parkinsonism from a specific cause like some psychiatric medications.
Familial Parkinsons disease
Parkinsons disease can have a familial cause, which means you can inherit it from one or both of your parents. However, this only makes up about 10% of all cases.
Experts have linked at least seven different genes to Parkinson’s disease. They’ve linked three of those to early-onset of the condition . Some genetic mutations also cause unique, distinguishing features.
Idiopathic Parkinsons disease
Experts believe idiopathic Parkinsons disease happens because of problems with how your body uses a protein called -synuclein . Proteins are chemical molecules that have a very specific shape. When some proteins dont have the correct shape a problem known as protein misfolding your body cant use them and can’t break them down.
With nowhere to go, the proteins build up in various places or in certain cells . The buildup of these Lewy bodies causes toxic effects and cell damage.
The possible causes are:
Recommended Reading: Is Blurred Vision A Symptom Of Parkinson’s
Medicines For Parkinsons Disease
Medicines can help treat the symptoms of Parkinsons by:
- Increasing the level of dopamine in the brain
- Having an effect on other brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters, which transfer information between brain cells
- Helping control non-movement symptoms
The main therapy for Parkinsons is levodopa. Nerve cells use levodopa to make dopamine to replenish the brains dwindling supply. Usually, people take levodopa along with another medication called carbidopa. Carbidopa prevents or reduces some of the side effects of levodopa therapy such as nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and restlessness and reduces the amount of levodopa needed to improve symptoms.
People living with Parkinsons disease should never stop taking levodopa without telling their doctor. Suddenly stopping the drug may have serious side effects, like being unable to move or having difficulty breathing.
The doctor may prescribe other medicines to treat Parkinsons symptoms, including:
- Dopamine agonists to stimulate the production of dopamine in the brain
- Enzyme inhibitors to increase the amount of dopamine by slowing down the enzymes that break down dopamine in the brain
- Amantadine to help reduce involuntary movements
- Anticholinergic drugs to reduce tremors and muscle rigidity
Learn More About Caring For Someone With Parkinsons Disease
Although Parkinsons disease is incurable, its manageable with medications that either mimic dopamine or prevent the breakdown of dopamine in the brain.
Contact us to schedule an appointment at one of our two offices in Los Angeles, California, and find out how we can help your parent with Parkinsons disease live a better life.
You Might Also Enjoy…
Don’t Miss: Can Parkinson’s Affect Breathing
What Tests Will Be Done To Diagnose This Condition
When healthcare providers suspect Parkinsons disease or need to rule out other conditions, various imaging and diagnostic tests are possible. These include:
- Blood tests .
- Positron emission tomography scan.
New lab tests are possible
Researchers have found possible ways to test for possible indicators or Parkinsons disease. Both of these new tests involve the alpha-synuclein protein but test for it in new, unusual ways. While these tests cant tell you what conditions you have because of misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins, that information can still help your provider make a diagnosis.
The two tests use the following methods.
- Spinal tap. One of these tests looks for misfolded alpha-synuclein proteins in cerebrospinal fluid, which is the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. This test involves a spinal tap , where a healthcare provider inserts a needle into your spinal canal to collect some cerebrospinal fluid for testing.
- Skin biopsy. Another possible test involves a biopsy of surface nerve tissue. A biopsy includes collecting a small sample of your skin, including the nerves in the skin. The samples come from a spot on your back and two spots on your leg. Analyzing the samples can help determine if your alpha-synuclein has a certain kind of malfunction that could increase the risk of developing Parkinsons disease.
Work With A Movement Disorder Specialist
One of the best pieces of advice we were given early on was to make sure we worked with a neurologist who has specialized training in movement disorders. These clinicians are known as movement disorders neurologists or specialists. There are many great neurologists who see people with a wide range of neurological conditions, but do not treat many people with Parkinsons. A movement disorder specialist is an expert in the issues that people with Parkinsons face every day and theyre going to be able to give you the best care possible.
If you dont have a movement disorder neurologist in your local area, many people with Parkinsons travel to see one in a different city once or twice a year. This doesnt mean you have to end your relationship with your current doctor. Rather, getting a second pair of eyes on your condition can be a positive addition to your ever changing care plan.
You May Like: How Can You Prevent Parkinson’s
Linda Ronstadt Ozzy Osbourne And Muhammad Ali Are Just Some Of The Well
Parkinsons disease is a neurodegenerative condition caused by the loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, which leads to various neurological and mobility-related symptoms. The Parkinsons Foundation estimates the number of people living with Parkinsons at 1 million in the United States alone, with over 10 million cases worldwide.
In January 2020, Ozzy Osbourne became the latest public figure to announce a Parkinsons diagnosis, helping to raise the profile of this little-understood neurological condition. Read on to learn more about how other celebrities living with Parkinsons disease have managed their condition and the work theyve done to raise awareness.
Living A Full Life With Parkinsons
Many people with PD have found peace and meaning in their circumstances. Some have found themselves able to do more despite their condition, picking up new hobbies or finding valuable insights into their life. It helps to keep the following tenets in mind:
- There is no single solution to managing PD
- Build a strong support system
- Adapt your treatment plan to changing circumstances
- Stay engaged on treatment options
- Stay hopeful and celebrate little victories
- Be prepared for the future
Of course, acceptance of your condition will not happen overnight. The journey will be a very bumpy one. So long as you are honest with yourself and others, seek support from those closest to you, and be patient and open to change, you will eventually find peace of mind without even realizing it. Take each day as it comes, and infuse yourself with hope and joy.
Outside of this guide, there are many resources that you can also look into to help you learn more about Parkinsons, see how others with PD manage their condition, and detailed facts on treatment options. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research has a number of useful guides, as does the Parkinsons Foundation on frequently asked questions on PD.
If you needspecialised care support for Parkinsons disease, our Care Pros can help. Reach out to our Care Advisors at 016 299 2188 or fill out the form below.