Four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) define the disorder. These include:
- Tremors or shaking commonly in the hands but may occur in the feet or head
- Bradykinesia, or being slow to move
- Rigid muscles affecting most people with PD and caused by a loss of the normal contraction-relaxation between opposite muscles at the same joint.
- Impaired posture and balance characterized by stooped over stance or drooping shoulders and a tendency to fall easily
Typically, early signs of Parkinson’s can be subtle and take a long period of time to become obvious. They may be regarded as simply the result of aging. Family members or close friends of affected people may note slow or irregular movement, a lack facial expression, a loss of automatic movements, such as the ability to initiate walking, and speech changes. The tremors typical of Parkinson’s make holding utensils difficult, result in hand writing changes and interfere with other delicate movements. Symptoms of Parkinson’s usually start on one side of the body, eventually expanding to both sides, although not equally. Also what symptoms appear and their intensity varies with each individual.
In addition to movement problems, a number of non-motor signs of Parkinson’s may arise. Among these are:
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing
- Skin becomes too oily or too dry due to impairment of the autonomic nervous system
- Sleep problems
- Muscle cramps
- Fatigue and reduced energy
- Pain in muscles and joints
- Sudden drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension)
- Difficulty urinating or constipation
- Sexual dysfunction
- Emotional changes
Because these symptoms also appear in other diseases, diagnosing Parkinson’s accurately can be difficult, but is imperative to developing the correct treatment strategy.