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Early Signs of Parkinson's Disease

What is Parkinson's Disease?

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is “a neurogenerative disorder that affects predominately the dopamine-producing (dopaminergic) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.” The World Health Organization estimates, as of 2019, over 8.5 million people currently have Parkinson’s disease, and the death rate for PD is increasing more than any other neurological disorder. This is an important thing for not only healthcare providers and seniors themselves to keep on the radar but also caregivers and families when assessing the health of the senior(s) in their lives.

Due to the generally slow development of the disease, it can be difficult to tell if you or a loved one are dealing with PD. It is important, however, to assess whether you or someone you know is experiencing some of the early signs. In this blog, we will list the common early signs of Parkinson’s Disease and briefly describe each.

1. Tremors

One of the most commonly known symptoms of PD, a slight shaking or trembling, usually

beginning on one side of the body. This symptom can present subtly at first and then over time it worsens and can spread to both sides of the body.

Support for those struggling with Parkinson's

2. Slow Movements

Also known as Bradykinesia, this can make fine motor skills like tying shoes, walking, or standing up more difficult. As the disease progresses, gross motor skills (examples: running, jumping, sitting up at a table or in a chair) become more difficult.

3. Muscle Rigidity

Usually described as a resistance to movement in the limbs and joints, this symptom causes difficulties with daily activities due to a decline in range of motion. Stiffness or tightness in the muscles can cause pain and discomfort further affecting activities of daily living (ADLs).

4. Balance and Posture Problems

Also known as Postural Instability, people with this symptom may notice they are stumbling, having difficulty staying upright, or feel unsteadiness when walking. This can increase the risk of injuries resulting from falls.

5. Changes in Handwriting or Smaller Handwriting

Another fine motor skills affected by PD is writing. Persons with PD experience something called “micrographia,” when handwriting becomes smaller and more cramped over time. If you notice your handwriting or a loved one’s beginning to change like this or becoming less legible and uniform, it could be an early sign of Parkinson’s Disease.

6. Loss or Decreased Sense of Smell

A decreased sense of smell, or hyposmia, is a symptom not directly related to motor skills. This change in senses is hard to notice but may be a vital clue in an early diagnosis.

7. Difficulty Sleeping

Insomnia, restless leg syndrome, vivid dreams or nightmares are all ways sleep can be affected by Parkinson’s Disease. Sleep disturbances can worsen other symptoms as well as cause a decline in quality of life.

8. Constipation

Barring other potential causes of constipation like a lack of fiber in your diet or a side effect of medication, constipation without no direct cause can be an early indicator of Parkinson’s Disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, PD affects the autonomic nervous system which controls bowel and bladder movements which can present itself early on before motor skills are affected.

9. Changes in Speech or Voice

A decrease in the quality of someone’s speech or voice is also an early indicator of Parkinson’s Disease. An individual’s voice may appear more soft or monotone or you may notice a change in pitch or tone.

Caregiving for those with Parkinson's Disease

Recognizing these symptoms is essential in treating and managing Parkinson’s Disease as early as possible to develop an approach to care. While a single symptom is not a definitive indicator of Parkinson’s Disease, it is important to notice when multiple symptoms present to begin speaking with your doctor. Early detection along with a proper care plan can assist in maintaining independence and the ability to age in place longer.

With Care Around the Block, we can help you navigate the confusion and anxiety of the aging process by completing an assessment and creating an individualized care plan. Our Care Managers can help with advocacy at doctor’s visits, medication assistance, and coordinating care giving. Call today at 865.444.6787 to learn more about what we can do to make your life easier!



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