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.
What Are The Symptoms
The best-known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease involve loss of muscle control. However, experts now know that muscle control-related issues aren’t the only possible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Motor symptoms which means movement-related symptoms of Parkinsons disease include the following:
Additional motor symptoms can include:
- Blinking less often than usual. This is also a symptom of reduced control of facial muscles.
- Cramped or small handwriting. Known as micrographia, this happens because of muscle control problems.
- Drooling. Another symptom that happens because of loss of facial muscle control.
- Mask-like facial expression. Known as hypomimia, this means facial expressions change very little or not at all.
- Trouble swallowing . This happens with reduced throat muscle control. It increases the risk of problems like pneumonia or choking.
- Unusually soft speaking voice . This happens because of reduced muscle control in the throat and chest.
Several symptoms are possible that aren’t connected to movement and muscle control. In years past, experts believed non-motor symptoms were risk factors for this disease when seen before motor symptoms. However, theres a growing amount of evidence that these symptoms can appear in the earliest stages of the disease. That means these symptoms might be warning signs that start years or even decades before motor symptoms.
Non-motor symptoms include:
Stages of Parkinsons disease
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.
Recommended Reading: Can Parkinson’s Come And Go
Parkinson’s Disease And Movement Disorders Center
Our center provides compassionate and timely treatment to patients with movement disorders, such as dystonia, ataxia, essential tremor and similar conditions. But our mission goes beyond patient care excellence. By offering educational events and support groups, we empower patients and caregivers to become better partners in their health.
Passive Manipulation Of Limbs
To test for the presence of rigidity, we need to passively manipulate the limbs of the patient. However, If the disease is in its early stage or the symptoms are well controlled with medications, we may not be able to see rigidity. We will need to use some activation maneuvers, that basically consist in performing repetitive movements with the limb contralateral to the one that is being tested.
Also, there are two types of rigidity:
– Lead-pipe rigidity: where the tone is uniformly and smoothly increased throughout the entire range of movement
– Cogwheel rigidity: where a tremor is superimposed on the hypertonia, making the movement irregular due to intermittent increase and reduction of tone
Upper Extremity Testing
For the upper extremity the most sensitive joint where to check for rigidity is the wrist. To uncover rigidity, passively rotate the wrist and feel for a resistance to the movement. It is very important that the arm of the patient is fully relaxed when rotating the wrist. To do this, place your proximal hand under the patients forearm, while your distal hand grabs and rotates the wrist of the patient. When rigidity is present, the range of motion will be preserved but you will feel a resistance in performing the movement.
Wrist rotation with activation maneuver.
It is also possible to test for rigidity in the elbow by passively flexing and extending the forearm.
Elbow flexion-extension with activation maneuver.
Lower Extremity Testing
Recommended Reading: What Treatments Are Available For Parkinson’s Disease
What Is Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinsons disease occurs when brain cells that make dopamine, a chemical that coordinates movement, stop working or die. Because PD can cause tremor, slowness, stiffness, and walking and balance problems, it is called a movement disorder. But constipation, depression, memory problems and other non-movement symptoms also can be part of Parkinsons. PD is a lifelong and progressive disease, which means that symptoms slowly worsen over time.
The experience of living with Parkinson’s over the course of a lifetime is unique to each person. As symptoms and progression vary from person to person, neither you nor your doctor can predict which symptoms you will get, when you will get them or how severe they will be. Even though broad paths of similarity are observed among individuals with PD as the disease progresses, there is no guarantee you will experience what you see in others.
Estimates suggest that Parkinsons affects nearly 1 million people in the United States and more than 6 million people worldwide.
For an in-depth guide to navigating Parkinsons disease and living well as the disease progresses, check out our Parkinsons 360 toolkit.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Dr. Rachel Dolhun, a movement disorder specialist and vice president of medical communications at The Michael J. Fox Foundation, breaks down the basics of Parkinson’s.
What Is Essential Tremor And How Is It Different To A Parkinsons Tremor
A tremor is a rhythmical, involuntary movement that affects a part of the body, such as the hand.
Essential tremor is the most common type of tremor. Its most noticeable when your hands are doing something and it usually affects both the right and left sides of the body equally. Essential tremors often lessen when your body is resting.
Unlike an essential tremor, a Parkinsons tremor is most obvious when the affected body part is resting and tends to be less noticeable with movement. It usually starts on one side of the body and may progress to the other side as Parkinsons develops.
The time it takes to get a diagnosis can vary from person to person. Some people may receive a diagnosis of Parkinsons quite quickly, but for others it may be a long process. This can be due to a number of things, including your medical history, your age and what symptoms you have.
Your specialist may wish to rule out other causes of your symptoms first and see how you respond to treatment. This may take some time, and, as already mentioned, there is currently no definitive test for Parkinsons.
How you respond to treatment may help your specialist make a diagnosis. Keeping a diary or record of your symptoms will give the specialist more information to guide their decision.
Because the symptoms of Parkinsons are sometimes similar to other forms of parkinsonism, people can sometimes be misdiagnosed.
Recommended Reading: What Prevents Parkinson’s Disease
Ological Limitations Of The Diagnostic Studies
When interpreting the literature about diagnosis, the following methodological issues should be considered:
- lack of long-term prospective clinical and pathological as a reference standard
- lack of operational definitions such as defining specialists or clinical diagnostic criteria
- unclear whether investigators were blinded to initial diagnosis
- sample sizes necessarily limited by the number of cases available with neuropathological outcomes
- trial age groups are often young as studies were performed by neurologists who see a younger population of people with PD
- most studies included people with established disease lasting some years
- varying geographical locations
- some studies are in specialised units and may not reflect the diagnostic accuracy of other units in the UK
- exclusion of some studies using magnetic resonance volumetry and magnetic resonance spectroscopy as they lacked appropriate population, intervention and outcome criteria
- lack of statistical details of diagnostic accuracy such as sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive values
- lack of economic evaluations of SPECT.
Further Testing In Parkinsons
In other situations, where perhaps the diagnosis is not as clear, younger individuals are affected, or there are atypical symptoms such as tremor affecting both hands or perhaps no tremor at all, further testing may help. For example, imaging can play a role in differentiating between essential tremor and Parkinsons. It can also be important to confirm what is initially a clinical diagnosis of Parkinsons prior to an invasive treatment procedure such as surgical DBS
Also Check: What Toxins Can Cause Parkinson’s Disease
How Is Parkinsons Disease Tested And Diagnosed
At Banner Health, our neurologists have years of experience in testing and diagnosing Parkinsons disease. Our team of compassionate experts knows that each patient is different, so we work with you to quickly find the right diagnosis to begin building your treatment plan.
Parkinsons is not simple to diagnose. No test exists to diagnose Parkinsons disease. Doctors test and diagnose Parkinsons based on your medical history, symptoms and neurological and physical exams.
Many times a primary care provider is the first to suspect a Parkinsons diagnosis. If youre experiencing symptoms such as tremors, shaking, slow movement, stiffness and/or trouble with balance, talk to your doctor or seek the opinion of a neurologist. Banner Health neurologists are movement disorder specialists, who have experience and specific training to assess and treat Parkinsons.
Gauging Speed Of Movement
Bradykinesia occurs in most people who have Parkinson’s. It may cause a lack of spontaneous facial expression and fewer eye blinks per minute than usual, and your healthcare provider will look for these signs in your physical exam.
Your practitioner also may assess your speed of movement by asking you to open and close each hand or tap your index finger against your thumb repeatedly, making large movements as quickly as possible. In people with Parkinson’s disease, the movement may start off fast and precise, but it will deteriorate quickly, becoming slow and limited.
Gait is also another way to test for this. Observing a patient while they walk, noting the length of their stride as well as the speed at which they move, can tell healthcare providers quite a bit. Lack of arm swing is also a feature that appears fairly early in those with Parkinson’s.
Don’t Miss: Parkinson’s Disease Foundation Donation
How Did My Dad Get Diagnosed With Parkinsons
Dad and I began our care journey closer to the beginning of his Parkinson diagnosis when I was so naive to believe all that was involved were shaky hands. Some of my Chinese patients living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area couldnt understand the English materials. I decided to translate the library contents into Chinese.
Also Check: Is Drooling A Sign Of Parkinsons Disease
What Other Tests Are Used To Confirm A Parkinsons Diagnosis
Because there isnt a specific test for Parkinsons disease, doctors instead assess patients and look for key symptoms of Parkinsons, such as tremors, slow movements, or stiffness. The presence of these symptoms, along with a review of a persons medical history, can often be used to diagnose Parkinsons.
In some cases, a doctor might order tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. This can include MRIs and other imaging tests, such as PET scans. It might also include bloodwork, urine samples, and other lab work. This type of testing cant help diagnose Parkinsons, but it can help confirm a suspected Parkinsons diagnosis.
Parkinsons can take several months and several visits to diagnose. Often, doctors will prescribe Parkinsons medications before theyre certain of a diagnosis. A persons response to Parkinsons medications can be a strong indicator of whether their symptoms are caused by Parkisons or by another condition.
You May Like: What Medications Are Used For Parkinson’s Disease
Imaging And Lab Tests
Your doctor may order some imaging tests and laboratory tests. Imaging tests can include computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging scans. Laboratory tests can include blood tests and urine tests.
While these tests and scans will not help diagnose Parkinsons disease, they can help rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms.
Your doctor may also suggest that you get a dopamine transporter scan . This scan requires a single-photon emission computed tomography scanner. It involves an injection of a small amount of a radioactive drug so that your doctor can study the dopamine systems in your brain .
While a DaTscan cannot conclusively prove that you have Parkinsons, it can help confirm your doctors diagnosis and eliminate other conditions.
What Medications And Treatments Are Used
Medication treatments for Parkinsons disease fall into two categories: Direct treatments and symptom treatments. Direct treatments target Parkinsons itself. Symptom treatments only treat certain effects of the disease.
Medications that treat Parkinsons disease do so in multiple ways. Because of that, drugs that do one or more of the following are most likely:
Several medications treat specific symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms treated often include the following:
- Erectile and sexual dysfunction.
- Hallucinations and other psychosis symptoms.
Deep brain stimulation
In years past, surgery was an option to intentionally damage and scar a part of your brain that was malfunctioning because of Parkinsons disease. Today, that same effect is possible using deep-brain stimulation, which uses an implanted device to deliver a mild electrical current to those same areas.
The major advantage is that deep-brain stimulation is reversible, while intentional scarring damage is not. This treatment approach is almost always an option in later stages of Parkinson’s disease when levodopa therapy becomes less effective, and in people who have tremor that doesnt seem to respond to the usual medications.
Researchers are exploring other possible treatments that could help with Parkinsons disease. While these arent widely available, they do offer hope to people with this condition. Some of the experimental treatment approaches include:
Recommended Reading: Watch For Parkinson’s Tremors
What Are The Risk Factors For Parkinsons
There are a few known risk factors for Parkinsons. These include:
- having a family history of Parkinsons
- being over 60 years
- being a male
- having been exposed to herbicides, pesticides, and other toxins
Its important to note that these risk factors only cause a slight increase in risk. Having one or more risk factors isnt an indicator youll develop Parkinsons. However, if youre concerned about your risk for Parkinsons, talk with a doctor.
A Search For Sharpness
But it is the angles and sharpness of brain waves that could hold the key to detecting Parkinsons, according to the new studys findings, which appear in the journal eNeuro.
While working on his doctorate at the University of California, San Diego, fellow study author Scott Cole, Ph.D., realized a potential link between the disease and sharp brain waves.
Using EEG readings taken from 15 Parkinsons patients and 16 healthy individuals, the team honed in on the unfiltered waves.
The raw signals go up and down like sine waves but with more asymmetry, explains Swann, adding, The steepness the slant turns out to be important in Parkinsons patients.
Indeed, the team noticed that Parkinsons patients who were not taking medication had a sharper peak at the top of their brain wave, compared with the bottom.
Finding that a noninvasive method such as an EEG could be a promising diagnostic tool may have important consequences for the future of the disease. The team is hoping that doctors and researchers can use the test to track changes related to Parkinsons in the brain over the years.
We dont know yet whether this approach will be better, but it could provide easily obtained brain measurements that would be helpful and possibly used in tandem with clinical observations and other EEG measurements, notes Swann.
Read Also: Parkinson’s Loss Of Taste
What Can I Expect On The Day Of The Ct Scan
Please allow at least one hour for your CT scan. Most scans take from 15 to 60 minutes.
Depending on the type of scan you need, a contrast material may be injected intravenously so the radiologist can see the body structures on the CT image.
After the contrast agent is injected, you may feel flushed, or you may have a metallic taste in your mouth. These are common reactions. If you experience shortness of breath or any unusual symptoms, please tell the technologist.
The technologist will help you lie in the correct position on the examining table. The table will then automatically move into place for imaging. It is very important that you lie as still as possible during the entire procedure. Movement could blur the images. You may be asked to hold your breath briefly at intervals when the X-ray images are taken.
After the test is performed the results are reviewed by a radiologist.
Neurology At The Gw Medical Faculty Associates
As a division of The GW Medical Faculty Associates Department of Neurology, we work closely with our respected colleagues in the Department of Neurosurgery to offer comprehensive functional neurosurgical treatment. Our deep brain stimulation program, run by a specialty-trained neurosurgeon and neurologist team, includes pre-operative planning, intra-operative monitoring, and long-term programming for patients with advanced Parkinsons disease, tremors, and other diagnoses.
You May Like: Judy Woodruff Health Problems
Don’t Miss: How Do They Test For Parkinson’s