Discuss With Your Physician
Non-motor symptoms can sometimes be difficult to recognize. Therefore, it is important to make your doctor aware of them.
One useful resource is the PD NMS Questionnaire. You can use this to record your symptoms and discuss them with your doctor.
Dr. Ron Postuma, whose research was funded by donations to the Parkinson Canada Research Program, has also developed tools to help people with Parkinsons and their physicians identify and manage non-motor symptoms.
Signs Of Parkinsons Disease
In 1817, Dr. James Parkinson published An Essay on the Shaking Palsy describing non-motor, as well as, motor symptoms of the illness that bears his name. Parkinsons is not just a movement disorder, explained Dr. Shprecher. Constipation, impaired sense of smell, and dream enactment can occur years before motor symptoms of Parkinsons. The latter, caused by a condition called REM sleep behavior disorder, is a very strong risk factor for both Parkinsons and dementia . This has prompted us to join a consortium of centers studying REM sleep behavior disorder.
The Need For Detailed Autopsy Studies
As deaths from SARS-CoV-2 infection continue, autopsy studies will play a key role in defining CNS pathology, including in patients with PD. However, due to increased precautions taken at the time of autopsy, relatively few brain autopsies are being performed. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance on autopsies for confirmed SARS-CoV-2 decedents and advises against performing procedures that generate aerosols, such as those used to remove the brain . Most studies thus far lack neuropathologic characterization altogether,,,,, and an autopsy case series did not provide detailed neuropathologic descriptions. Moreover, deaths occurring in nursing home and long-term care facilities, where a large subset of patients suffering from dementia reside, are less likely to result in autopsies. We thus expect a delay in understanding whether and how SARS-CoV-2 infection specifically alters neuropathology, including in PD.
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Take Care Of Yourself
Probably one of the most important, and sometimes difficult, things caregivers can do is to take care of themselves. This includes maintaining mental and physical health by making and keeping your own medical and dental appointments. As a caregiver, it is important to keep your job whenever possible as it provides not only financial help and possibly insurance coverage, but also a sense of self-esteem. Join a support group for caregivers if possible. Support groups help you meet people who are going through what you are going though, vent frustrations, give and receive mutual support, and exchange resource information and coping strategies. Whenever possible get your sleep, take breaks, make and keep social activities, and try to keep your sense of humor.
Caregiving For People Living With Parkinsons
Caring for a loved one with PD can be a challenging job, especially as the disease progresses. Former caregivers of a loved one with PD suggest doing the following : Get prepared, Take care of yourself, Get help , Work to maintain a good relationship with your loved one, and Encourage the person with PD for whom you care, to stay active.
Preparing for caregiving starts with education. Reading this fact sheet is a good start. More resources are available to you in theResources section of this fact sheet. Early Parkinsonâs disease usually requires more emotional support and less hands-on care. It is a good time for family members/caregivers to educate themselves about the disease.
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If You Have Parkinson’s Disease
If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, call your doctor if:
- You notice any significant change in your symptoms, such as severe episodes of freezingâa sudden loss of mobilityâwhich may affect walking.
- Your response to your medicine changes.
- Any other symptoms occur, such as constipation, sexual problems, or incontinence.
- You have symptoms of depression, such as feeling sad or losing interest in daily activities.
- You or your family notice that you have problems with memory and thinking ability.
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Stage 3As motor symptoms become worse, patients may begin to experience loss of balance leading to falls and movement can become very slow. Although many patients can still live independently they may have difficulty in everyday activities such as eating or dressing.
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Stage 4In this later stage, symptoms are now extremely limiting. Many patients can still stand without assistance but movement is greatly impaired. Most will need help with everyday activities and will not be able to look after themselves.
Stage 5This is the most advanced stage of the disease and most patients will experience difficulty in walking and standing, often requiring a wheelchair. Assistance will be needed in all areas of daily life as motor skills are seriously impaired. In addition, people with advanced Parkinsons disease may also begin to suffer hallucinations.
MORE: How Parkinsons disease affects your body.
Parkinsons News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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Trouble Moving Or Walking
Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Have others noticed that your arms dont swing like they used to when you walk? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem stuck to the floor.
What is normal?If you have injured your arm or shoulder, you may not be able to use it as well until it is healed, or another illness like arthritis might cause the same symptom.
Breathing & Respiratory Difficulties
Some people with Parkinsons disease may experience shortness of breath. There is no clear cause underlying respiratory dysfunction in PD, its frequency or the effect that medications have on respiration. Several reasons for shortness of breath in PD include:
- Wearing off is a common experience among people with PD who have been taking levodopa for several years. These occur when the medication benefit wears off and PD symptoms return before the next dose.
- Respiratory dyskinesia refers to an occurrence of irregular and rapid breathing when levodopa medications reach their peak effect. These may accompanied by involuntary body movements, typically experienced as dyskinesia.
- Anxiety is a common symptom of PD that may also exacerbate shortness of breath, whether by itself or as a consequence of wearing off of the medication.
- Aspirationpneumonia is a pneumonia that develops after food or liquid goes down the wrong pipe. Advanced PD can increase the risk of swallowing difficulties, choking and aspiration pneumonia.
- Non-PD health issues include conditions such as asthma, allergies, lung disease, heart disease and other conditions that may cause shortness of breath.
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Symptoms That May Be Related To Pd But That Few People Know About
People with PD and care partners may suspect that a particular symptom is related to PD, but they cant find information about it, so they are not sure. Two symptoms that pop up in this category are runny nose and breathing problems, which well focus on today. Of course, if these are new symptoms for you, they could be indicative of a new problem, including infection with COVID-19, so make sure to get yourself checked out by your doctor. However, if all else is ruled out, PD could be to blame. Excessive sweating and specific skin disorders are in this category as well and have been addressed previously.
Symptoms That Are Commonly Associated With Pd
These symptoms include sleep disorders, abnormalities in blood pressure, urinary problems, constipation, depression, and anxiety. Even though these symptoms are so commonly seen in PD, they are also commonly associated with other issues that have nothing to do with PD, so it is vital to keep an open mind about their cause. If any symptom is new or worsening, it could be an indication of a new medical problem. For example, urinary problems are extremely common in PD, but may be a sign of an enlarged prostate, which can be treated in an entirely different way.
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What Are The Symptoms
The four main symptoms of Parkinson’s are:
- Tremor, which means shaking or trembling. Tremor may affect your hands, arms, or legs.
- Stiff muscles.
- Slow movement.
- Problems with balance or walking.
Tremor may be the first symptom you notice. It’s one of the most common signs of the disease, although not everyone has it.
More importantly, not everyone with a tremor has Parkinson’s disease.
Tremor often starts in just one arm or leg or on only one side of the body. It may be worse when you are awake but not moving the affected arm or leg. It may get better when you move the limb or you are asleep.
In time, Parkinson’s affects muscles all through your body, so it can lead to problems like trouble swallowing or constipation.
In the later stages of the disease, a person with Parkinson’s may have a fixed or blank expression, trouble speaking, and other problems. Some people also lose mental skills .
People usually start to have symptoms between the ages of 50 and 60. But sometimes symptoms start earlier.
How Do You Know If You Or Your Loved One Has A Problem With Swallowing
Swallowing difficulties can start very subtly and initially not be obvious to either the person with PD or their loved ones. There are signs to look out for before swallowing difficulty becomes overt . Some of the signs you should pay attention to include:
- Slow rate of eating people with difficulty swallowing may slow down their eating in order to avoid coughing or choking
- Fatigue during eating or decreased enjoyment of food
- A sensation that food is sticking in the throat
- Coughing or excessive throat clearing during eating
- Difficulty in swallowing pills
- Unexplained weight loss people with difficulty swallowing may reduce their consumption in an attempt to eat without coughing or choking
- Change in dietary habits people with difficult swallowing may alter their diet in order to avoid foods that cause difficulty. This may not be a choice made consciously
- Diagnosis of a pneumonia this could be caused by aspiration, or entry of a foreign substance into the airway
If you think there might be a swallowing issue, it is important to speak with your doctor about it. There are steps you can take to properly assess the situation and improve your swallowing function. This can in turn reduce your risk of choking, make eating more enjoyable, and lessen the chances of unwanted weight loss and/or other discomforts.
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Your Home And Lifestyle
- Modify your activities and your home. For example, simplify your daily activities, and change the location of furniture so that you can hold on to something as you move around the house.
- Eat healthy foods, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, legumes, poultry, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
- Exercise and do physical therapy. They have benefits in both early and advanced stages of the disease.
Stooping Or Hunching Over
Are you not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson’s disease .
What is normal?If you have pain from an injury or if you are sick, it might cause you to stand crookedly. Also, a problem with your bones can make you hunch over.
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Problems With Tongue Muscles
Parkinsons can also cause problems in the tongue muscles. The tongue is important in swallowing. We use it to move food around and push it to the back of the mouth to trigger the swallowing reflexes. Parkinsons can also impair the reflexes that protect our windpipe from food and drink. A problem coordinating breathing and swallowing may make this problem worse.
Oral Dysfunction In Parkinsons: Swallowing Problems And Drooling
Two common and distressing problems that can develop in Parkinsons disease are swallowing dysfunction and drooling. I want to help you better understand these issues and learn what you can do to improve them so read on!
Thank you to Christine Sapienza, PhD, CCC-SLP and Bari Hoffman Ruddy, PhD, CCC-SLP for providing some of the material below.
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Stiffness And Slow Movement
Parkinsons disease mainly affects adults older than 60. You may feel stiff and a little slow to get going in the morning at this stage of your life. This is a completely normal development in many healthy people. The difference with PD is that the stiffness and slowness it causes dont go away as you get up and start your day.
Stiffness of the limbs and slow movement appear early on with PD. These symptoms are caused by the impairment of the neurons that control movement. A person with PD will notice jerkier motions and move in a more uncoordinated pattern than before. Eventually, a person may develop the characteristic shuffling gait.
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Managing Depression In Parkinsons Disease
People with Parkinsons, family members and caregivers may not always recognize the signs of depression and anxiety. If you are experiencing depression as a symptom of Parkinsons, it is important to know it can be treated.
Here are some suggestions:
- For information and support on living well with Parkinsons disease, contact our Information and Referral line.
- As much as possible, remain socially engaged and physically active. Resist the urge to isolate yourself.
- You may want to consult a psychologist and there are medications that help relieve depression in people with Parkinsons, including nortriptyline and citalopram .
Respiratory Dysfunction In Parkinsonisms
As described above, the presence of respiratory dysfunction in PD may be explained, at least in part, by dysregulation in basal ganglia and in other brainstem structures that control the central respiratory drive or peripheral airway muscles. In this scenario, it is reasonable to assume the presence of some kind of dysfunction in other forms of Parkinsonism, either secondary or primary degenerative, in which these structures may be involved .
Besides this, to the best of our knowledge, systematic studies on degenerative parkinsonians are still lacking, with only few data currently available about MSA and DLB, two degenerative disorders belonging to -synucleinopathies along with PD.
Inspiratory stridor is probably related to vocal cord paralysis or vocal cord and laryngeal dystonia, leading to glottis closure , and the presence of nocturnal stridor is classically considered an important predictor of sudden death in these patients . No data about the role of dopaminergic therapy or DBS are available in MSA, and some authors proposed an approach with CPAP or botulinum toxin injection into vocal cords . Obstructive sleep apnoea has been related to pharyngeal narrowing due to brainstem neurons degeneration , and similarly to other forms of obstructive apnoea CPAP is the preferential treatment.
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Medication Not Working The Way It Used To
In the early stages, taking medicine works well to get rid of symptoms. But as Parkinsons progresses, your medication works for shorter periods of time, and symptoms return more easily. Your doctor will need to change your prescription.
Dr. Valerie Rundle-Gonzalez, a Texas-based neurologist, says to pay attention to how long your medicine takes to kick in and when it stops working. She says you should feel like symptoms significantly improve or are almost gone while on medication.
Eating Swallowing And Saliva Control
Some people with Parkinsons may find they have problems with eating, swallowing and controlling their saliva.
This information looks at the issues you may face, explains why they happen and what help is available.
Eating is a social activity and problems that affect chewing and swallowing can have a big impact on how much you enjoy meal times. For example, some people with Parkinsons have told us that they feel self-conscious or embarrassed while eating because of their symptoms.
Its important to look out for symptoms related to difficulties with eating and swallowing. These can develop slowly over time and you may not notice them, so family, friends or carers should know what to look out for too.
If youre not able to swallow properly, you may experience:
- inability to clear food from the mouth
- food sticking in the throat
- a gurgly voice
- coughing when eating or drinking
- choking on food, liquid or saliva
- problems swallowing medication
- discomfort in the chest or throat
These things can lead to a number of long-term problems, including:
Talk to your GP as soon as you can if you have problems with eating or swallowing they may refer you to specialists who can help.
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