Early Signs Of Parkinson’s Disease
Candace Rovang | Apr 5, 2018
When it comes to diagnosis, Parkinson’s disease has no definite process. Currently, there is not a blood or laboratory test capable of diagnosing an individual. Instead, two things are used: a person’s medical history and a person’s neurological signs and symptoms. Understanding the early signs of Parkinson’s disease can help you or your loved one gain access to the care they deserve and need much more quickly.
Stage Three Of Parkinsons Disease
Balance is compromised by the inability to make the rapid, automatic and involuntary adjustments necessary to prevent falling, and falls are common at this stage. All other symptoms of PD are also present at this stage, and generally diagnosis is not in doubt at stage three.
Often a physician will diagnose impairments in reflexes at this stage by standing behind the patient and gently pulling the shoulders to determine if the patient has trouble maintaining balance and falls backward . An important clarifying factor of stage three is that the patient is still fully independent in their daily living activities, such as dressing, hygiene, and eating.
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3. Loss of SmellMany people temporarily lose their sense of smell due to colds or the flu, but if the loss is sustained over a length of time without any noticeable congestion, then it could be an early sign of Parkinsons disease.
4. Sleeping DisordersTrouble sleeping can be attributed to many illnesses and Parkinsons disease is one of them. Waking due to sudden body movements, or thrashing your legs in your sleep could be a warning sign of the condition.
5. Stiffness in Walking and MovingGeneral stiffness that cant be attributed to exercise aches and pains and doesnt ease up when moving around could be an early warning sign of Parkinsons disease. Many patients complain that it feels like their feet are literally stuck to the floor.
6. ConstipationUnable to move your bowels is also a common early sign of Parkinsons disease. Although this is a common enough problem in healthy people, Parkinsons patients are more susceptible to constipation. If you suddenly find youre constipated and consider your diet normal then you should have a doctor check you out.
7. Low or Soft VoiceA sore throat or a cold can change the way you speak, but if you have been experiencing a sudden softness to the tone of your voice and are now speaking in a quieter or hoarser tone, this could be an early symptom of Parkinsons disease.
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Common Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons is mostly known for its movement-related symptoms . Everyone with Parkinsons has the first symptom, bradykinesia. The term literally means slowness of movement. Researchers believe that this is due to changes in the motor areas of the brain . These changes interfere with the brains ability to execute the commands to move.
Experiencing bradykinesia alone does not result in a diagnosis of Parkinsons disease. The patient must also exhibit at least one of the following movement symptoms:
- Postural instability
Of the three, tremor is the most common and most commonly associated with the condition. It presents as a slight shaking in the hand or chin. Rigidity is when the patient experiences stiffness in the arms or legs that is not caused by arthritis. Finally, postural instability simply means that the patient has issues with balance or is prone to falling.
Other movement symptoms include:
- Insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, restless legs syndrome, vivid dreams, and other sleep disorders
- Losing sense of taste or smell
- Mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and apathy
Some non-movement symptoms do not become apparent until a patient has had PD for many years.
Acting Out What Youre Dreaming
- People with REM sleep behavior disorder might talk in their sleep and flail their arms and legs during dreams, accidentally hitting or kicking a person in the same bed.
When people learn about the sleep disorder, they often say, Ive been doing that for years. Theyre sometimes astonished to learn its an early symptom of Parkinsons, Dr. Joseph says.
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What Are The Later Secondary Signs And Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease
While the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are movement-related, progressive loss of muscle control and continued damage to the brain can lead to secondary symptoms. These secondary symptoms vary in severity, and not everyone with Parkinson’s will experience all of them, and may include:
The Early Signs Of Parkinsons Disease
Health Check Certified By: Dr. Gerald Morris
Parkinsons diseasea chronic and progressive brain disorder that causes loss of muscle controlaffects nearly one million people in the U.S. This disease results in the death and malfunction of nerve cells in the brain, many of which produce dopamine, a chemical responsible for controlling movement and coordination.
While symptoms such as tremors, slowed movement and speech problems are among the most common symptoms of Parkinsons, they tend to present themselves only once the disease has progressed. To detect Parkinsons disease in the early stages of development, the following are 12 signs to keep an eye out for.
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Why Is Expert Care Important
Early expert care can help reduce PD complications. Findings show that 60 percent of people with Parkinson’s fall short of getting the expert care they need. The National Parkinson Foundation has estimated that about 6,400 people with Parkinson’s die unnecessarily each year due to poor care.
Trained neurologists will help you recognize, treat and manage the disease. Common approaches include medication, surgical treatment, lifestyle modifications , physical therapy, support groups, occupational therapy and speech therapy. The best approach is interdisciplinary care, where you are seen by multiple specialists on a regular basis and all of the specialists talk and arrange the best possible coordinated care. This is what is referred to as a patient-centric approach to Parkinson’s care.
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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What Are The Surgical Treatments For Parkinsons Disease
Most patients with Parkinsons disease can maintain a good quality of life with medications. However, as the disease worsens, medications may no longer be effective in some patients. In these patients, the effectiveness of medications becomes unpredictable reducing symptoms during on periods and no longer controlling symptoms during off periods, which usually occur when the medication is wearing off and just before the next dose is to be taken. Sometimes these variations can be managed with changes in medications. However, sometimes they cant. Based on the type and severity of your symptoms, the failure of adjustments in your medications, the decline in your quality of life and your overall health, your doctor may discuss some of the available surgical options.
Tremor In Other Conditions
While tremor is a common symptom of Parkinsons, it can also be a symptom of other conditions, most notably essential tremor. The main difference between Parkinsons tremor and most other types of tremor is that in Parkinsons resting tremor is most common. Other conditions are usually characterized by action tremor, which tends to lessen at rest and increase when youre doing something, like trying to make a phone call or take a drink.
Tremors of the head and voice are also common in essential tremor but rare in Parkinsons.
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Benefits Of Home Care For Seniors With Parkinsons Disease
Finding out your aging parent is suffering from Parkinsons disease is a truly life-changing moment for your parent and for you as their family caregiver.
You suddenly find yourself at the beginning of what will likely be an extremely challenging care journey characterized by a wide variety of symptoms and limitations that can change quickly and without warning.
You know that much of what you thought about your future and the future of your aging parent, or what you planned for the care you were going to give them is no longer applicable and you will need to change your approach to handle what they go through as they move through this disease.
As you are dealing with this news and preparing yourself for the challenges that lay ahead for your parent and for you, one of the best decisions you can make for them is to start home care services. Having an elderly home care services provider in the home with your parent from as early as possible in the disease can make a tremendous difference in your parents quality of life, health, and well-being throughout the progression.
Some benefits of starting home care services for a senior in the early stages of Parkinsons disease include:
Early Detection Is Important
Some people never share with their doctor a subtle symptom, such as a periodic involuntary jerk of a finger, because it doesnt cross their minds as something worrisome.But Dr. Joseph advises not to wait until symptoms progress to get checked out. That finger jerk could progress into a full-blown tremor.Dr. Joseph, who was inspired to treat patients with Parkinsons when she saw a deep brain stimulation procedure stop a patients tremor in medical school, wants you to know that its normal to feel scared about having symptoms evaluated for a possible Parkinsons diagnosis.But she encourages you to be brave and get an exam for this important reason: People who start Parkinsons treatment earlier have less disability and longer lifespans!
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Can Parkinsons Disease Be Prevented
Unfortunately, no. Parkinsons disease is long-term disease that worsens over time. Although there is no way to prevent or cure the disease , medications may significantly relieve your symptoms. In some patients especially those with later-stage disease, surgery to improve symptoms may be an option.
Early Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system that affects movement. Approximately 1 million people in the U.S. are living with the disease. This year, about 60,000 more will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Many people associate Parkinson’s disease with tremors or shaking of their hands. While this is a common symptom, other important symptoms include stiffness of muscles and slowing of movement.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually start on one side of the body. They usually remain worse on that side even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.
The early signs and symptoms are different for each person. The symptoms may be mild enough to go unnoticed for months or years.
Here are early symptoms that can raise concern for Parkinson’s disease:
- Smaller handwriting
- Family members may observe that one arm swings less on one side when walking.
- Soft or low voice Again, it is family members or friends who may ask one to speak louder. The speech may be more of a monotone without the usual inflections.
It is the combination of several symptoms that would raise suspicion for Parkinson’s disease. A single symptom is not enough to make a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
It is important to talk with your health care provider if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. This is to properly diagnose the condition and rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.
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The Parkinsons Foundation has shared 10 early signs of PD, including tremor, small handwriting, and loss of smell.
While younger people with early-onset PD may have some of the same signs and symptoms as older individuals, the onset may look different, so their issues may not be attributed to PD.
The American Parkinson Disease Association notes that, Because the majority of people who get Parkinsons disease are over the age of 60, the disease is often overlooked in younger people, leading many to go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for extended periods of time.
My sister was finally referred to a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Neurological Restoration in Ohio, as her symptoms slowly but consistently progressed. After multiple tests, including an MRI, cognitive testing, and a movement and balance analysis, she was diagnosed with PD.
One of Bevs early signs was weakness in her left hand, which she attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome. She regularly conducted echocardiograms and electrocardiograms, which required a lot of constant hand movement. She did not have stiffness or balance issues initially, but she did have a slight head tremor.
As Bevs PD progressed, she noticed that her writing was changing. She now has stage 3 PD and said, Sometimes I cant read my own writing. I feel like it looks like chicken scratch!
Bev also has cognitive issues, mostly related to her short-term memory.
Prescription Medications To Treat Parkinsons
Most movement symptoms are due to a lack of dopamine. Therefore, drugs prescribed to treat PD are dopaminergic they either replenish dopamine or mimic its effects on the brain. The most common is called levodopa. The body converts this medication into dopamine to help control movement symptoms.
Make sure your doctor knows all medications you take including over-the-counter and supplements. This helps reduce the risk of drug interactions, a common issue for Parkinsons patients.
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Stage Four Of Parkinsons Disease
In stage four, PD has progressed to a severely disabling disease. Patients with stage four PD may be able to walk and stand unassisted, but they are noticeably incapacitated. Many use a walker to help them.
At this stage, the patient is unable to live an independent life and needs assistance with some activities of daily living. The necessity for help with daily living defines this stage. If the patient is still able to live alone, it is still defined as stage three.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease
A substance called dopamine acts as a messenger between two brain areas – the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum – to produce smooth, controlled movements. Most of the movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by a lack of dopamine due to the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra. When the amount of dopamine is too low, communication between the substantia nigra and corpus striatum becomes ineffective, and movement becomes impaired the greater the loss of dopamine, the worse the movement-related symptoms. Other cells in the brain also degenerate to some degree and may contribute to non-movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Although it is well known that lack of dopamine causes the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, it is not clear why the dopamine-producing brain cells deteriorate.
- Genetic and pathological studies have revealed that various dysfunctional cellular processes, inflammation, and stress can all contribute to cell damage.
- In addition, abnormal clumps called Lewy bodies, which contain the protein alpha-synuclein, are found in many brain cells of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. The function of these clumps in regards to Parkinson’s disease is not understood.
In general, scientists suspect that dopamine loss is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Symptoms of Parkinsons disease and the rate of decline vary widely from person to person. The most common symptoms include:
Other symptoms include:
- Speech/vocal changes: Speech may be quick, become slurred or be soft in tone. You may hesitate before speaking. The pitch of your voice may become unchanged .
- Handwriting changes: You handwriting may become smaller and more difficult to read.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Sleeping disturbances including disrupted sleep, acting out your dreams, and restless leg syndrome.
- Pain, lack of interest , fatigue, change in weight, vision changes.
- Low blood pressure.
The First Motor Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
When people ask what are the early signs and symptoms of PD? the answer they are typically expecting is one that involves motor symptoms. Early motor symptoms of PD can be a subtle rest tremor of one of the arms or hands . A rest tremor is one that occurs when the limb is completely at rest. If the tremor occurs when the limb is suspended against gravity or actively moving, this may still be a sign of PD, but may also be a sign of essential tremor.
The initial motor symptom of PD may be a sense of stiffness in one limb, sometimes interpreted as an orthopedic problem . This sense of stiffness may be noted when a person is trying to get on his/her coat for example. A person may also experience a sense of slowness of one hand or a subtle decrease in dexterity of one hand. For example, it may be hard to manipulate a credit card out of a wallet or perform a fast, repetitive motor task such as whisking an egg. A person may notice that one arm does not swing when he/she walks or that one arm is noticeably less active than the other when performing tasks. Another motor sign may be a stoop with walking or a slowing down of walking. A family member may notice that the person blinks infrequently or has less expression in his/her face and voice.
These motor symptoms may be very subtle. Bottom line if you are concerned that you may have an early motor or non-motor symptom of Parkinsons disease, make an appointment with a neurologist for a neurologic exam to discuss your concerns.
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