Get to know some of the clinical symptoms of the disease.
In contrast to Alzheimer’s, where the early signs involve loss of thinking, remembering, calculating, interpreting sensory signals and expressing ideas, the early signs of Parkinson’s are largely associated with control of movement. Confusion and cognitive impairment may be present in Parkinson’s, but these tend to occur later in the disease progression. The most common changes according to the Parkinson’s Foundation include:
- Onset of tremor in the hands. This is most easily detected when the hand is resting.
- Onset of small handwriting or micrographia. This may represent a reaction to the presence of tremor.
- Reduced sense of smell. This should be distinguished from a reduced ability to describe the smell to name the object itself, which is associated more with the onset of early dementia.
- Onset of involuntary “thrashing” movements during sleep. This should be distinguished from “normal” tossing and turning associated with insomnia.
- “Stiffness” of arms and legs and difficulties with movement or walking.
- Constipation. This is a very common occurrence in aging populations in general, but the sudden onset and relative lack of response to diet, exercise or other gentle remedies is a frequent early sign of Parkinson’s.
- Change in voice loudness or quality. Parkinson’s can impair coordination of movements required for vocalization leading to a soft of low speaking voice.
- Facial masking. Loss of control of facial muscles in Parkinson’s can make it difficult to smile spontaneously and evoke the full range of facial expressions.
- Frequent dizziness or fainting when standing from a chair. Otherwise known as “orthostatic hypotension” the frequent onset of dizziness or fainting when standing suddenly can be associated with Parkinson’s.
- Onset of “stooped” or “hunched” posture. While hunched posture may be common in aging individuals for a variety of different reasons related to musculoskeletal decline, it may also signal the onset of Parkinson’s when accompanied by other signs on this list.
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