When people hear, “Parkinson’s disease,” the visual that often first comes to mind is shaking and tremors. While the hallmarks of this neurodegenerative disorder do include movement disorders, Parkinson’s disease can lead to more symptoms than you might realize.
To give a better idea of the many different ways in which Parkinson’s disease can affect you, our team of neurological experts here at Complete Neurological Care want to outline six here.
For the between half a million and a million Americans who have Parkinson’s disease, symptoms can vary considerably, but most experience some combination of these common side effects in the beginning phases of the disease.
Parkinson’s disease basics
Before getting into some of the early signs of Parkinson’s disease, let’s briefly review the condition.
Parkinson’s disease occurs when dopamine-producing nerve cells in your brain begin to die off, affecting the brain’s basal ganglia. That’s an area of your brain that controls movement, which is why the disease is so closely associated with movement disorders.
In addition to the loss of dopamine, Parkinson’s disease also affects the nerves that produce norepinephrine, the chemicals that control important functions like blood pressure.
We don’t yet understand what causes Parkinson’s disease — there’s a genetic component, but most people with Parkinson’s disease do not have a family history of the condition.
Most people develop Parkinson‘s disease after the age of 60, but about 5% to 10% develop the condition before the age of 50.
These are very basic bits of information about what is a highly complex condition, but it sets the stage a little better for discussing early symptoms.
Among the first signs of Parkinson’s disease
As we mentioned, Parkinson’s affects between half a million and a million Americans. The reason we don’t have a more precise figure is that the condition is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
The progression and combination of symptoms in people can differ greatly, but most people first learn of their Parkinson’s disease after experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:
Let’s first start with one of the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s disease — movement issues. With early Parkinson’s disease, a tremor often first shows up in your hand, or perhaps just one finger, or in your face (chin). A tremor is a movement when you’re at rest.
This symptom shows up as a stiffness in your legs or in your shoulders, especially when you first get moving. You may also swing your arms far less.
Loss of smell
An early side effect of Parkinson’s disease is a loss of smell, or anosmia. This symptom can show up years before motor symptoms, as the protein that clumps in your basal ganglia can also gather in the area of your brain that controls smell.
Called micrographia, people with early Parkinson’s disease sometimes find that their handwriting becomes much smaller and the words more crowded.
Moving more slowly
In the early stages, you may notice that you’re moving more slowly. Also called bradykinesia, this slowness affects all of your movement, whether you’re walking or making a cup of coffee.
Moving in your sleep
People with early Parkinson’s disease often move a great deal in their sleep, especially in deep sleep.
There are other early signs of Parkinson’s disease, such as constipation, soft voice, and loss of facial expressions, but the above represent a good starting point for further investigation.
The best way to figure out whether you might be dealing with Parkinson’s disease is to come see us for a full evaluation.
To get started, please contact one of our offices in Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, or Margate, Florida, to schedule an appointment.