10 symptoms warning of early Parkinson’s disease

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 10 symptoms warning of early Parkinson’s disease

Think of Parkinson’s disease and first thoughts often turn to the characteristic hand and head tremors or a shuffling walk. However, Parkinson’s disease has a variety of early lesser-known warning signs many of us may not know are associated with this condition. A lack of awareness of these early symptoms can delay diagnosis.  This can make it difficult sometimes to tell when symptoms area a part of Parkinson’s disease or caused from something else.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a progressive disease that happens when the brain’s nerve cells don’t produce enough dopamine, a chemical that sends signals to an area of the brain that controls movement and coordination.  Nearly one million Americans live with this condition according to The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and between 50,000 to 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. 

When familiar with the early warning signs and symptoms, you may be able to get a earlier diagnosis starting treatment as early as possible helping relieve symptoms.  Understand that no single one of these signs means that you automatically have the disease but if you have more than one sign, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss it. 

1.  Tremor

A classic sign of PD is a tremor or slight shaking while at rest which might appear in your finger, thumb, hand, or chin.

Keep in mind that shaking can be due to several things – extreme stress, an injury, excessive exercise or even a medication you are taking.

2.  Small handwriting

If your handwriting has changed to where it is much smaller than in the past, this could be a sign of PD.  Changes in handwriting related to PD call micrographia, can also manifest itself in noticing letter sizes are smaller and the words are crowded together.

However, handwriting can change as we grow older, often due to arthritic, stiff hand or fingers or poor vision.

3.  Loss of smell

If your sense of smell has diminished to where you have trouble smelling foods with distinct odors such as a banana, pickles, or licorice, this could be a possible sign.  Also, if you have a cold, flu, or a stuffy nose, it is not unusual for sense of smell to change and it will come back once you are feeling better.

4.  Trouble sleeping

Tossing and turning in bed or acting out of dreams when you are asleep may signal PD.  If this behavior is bad enough for your partner to sleep in another room, discuss this with your doctor.   

Most of us at some point can have nights of thrashing around while sleeping.  Similarly, sudden, quick jerks or movements are considered normal while asleep. 

5.  Trouble moving or walking 

This sign is often described as a feeling of their feet being “stuck to the ground” or noticing stiffness or pain in your shoulders, hips, arms, or legs.  Another possible sign could be your arms do not swing like they used to when you walk.

It is possible these signs are related simply to arthritis or an injury that is not fully healed.  However, if these signs continue or are getting worse, see your doctor.

6.  Constipation

An early sign of PD is straining to have a bowel movement or constipation.  Constipation can be a common occurrence for many people so before believing it is a sign of PD, could it be you are not drinking enough water or consuming enough fiber in your diet?  Also consider if any medications you take are constipating. 

 7.  A soft or low voice

If you or anyone else has noticed a change in your voice – especially if people are having a hard time hearing what you are saying or you sound hoarse – this could be indicating PD. 

8.  Masked face

Facial masking is a common sign of PD.  This may cause you to look serious, depressed or even angry when you are not feeling any of those things.  It may be possible that medications you are taking could be causing this and something to keep in mind.

9.  Dizziness or fainting 

If upon standing from a chair you feel dizzy or faint, this can be a sign of low blood pressure which is linked to PD.  From time to time all of us can experience dizziness especially when standing up from a chair quickly.  But if it’s happening on a regular basis, see your doctor.

10.  Stooping or hunching over

       Slouching, stooping or hunching over can all be symptoms of the beginnings of PD.   

What happens if you suspect PD?

First, make an appointment with your doctor if you have at least two or more of the above symptoms and they are not getting better.  Working with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan to keep you as healthy and functioning as possible can help immensely.  This might include the following:

·      A referral to a neurologist who is a doctor specializing in the brain

·      Referrals to an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist

·      Meeting with a social worker on how PD will affect your life

·      Begin a regular program of exercise to slow further symptoms

·      Seek support from your family and friends