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Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects cells of the body, mainly those belonging to the brain and spinal cord. These nerve cells control movement throughout the body and produce an important chemical known as dopamine. When these cells become damaged or die, less dopamine is produced, leading to the movement problems commonly found in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Current research suggests that the disease mainly occurs randomly, with no clear indication of it occurring in families. However, some instances of Parkinson’s stem from environmental factors, and some may also be linked to genetic factors.
While there is no set consensus on how or why Parkinson’s disease occurs, nor is there a cure in place, you can keep your eyes open so that early symptoms of this condition can be treated. Here are some observable signs to look out for that suggest a person may be affected by the disease.
While the following are some early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease, keep in mind that these signs may also be indicative of another condition. No single symptom on its own is a major indicator of Parkinson’s, but you or your loved one should consult a doctor if multiple signs occur. In addition, many signs that are indicative of Parkinson’s disease are also indicative of the natural aging process.
A tremor is the most common sign of Parkinson’s disease. Tremors are involuntary shaking of the hands, fingers, arms, legs or jaw. Most sufferers of tremors experience “resting tremors,” where they occur more often at times of rest.
Tremors can also occur after extended exercise, periods of intense stress, injury, or due to another medication unrelated to Parkinson’s.
People affected by Parkinson’s disease may experience intense stiffness in parts of their body. Common areas affected are the arms, legs and feet. An early indicator of stiffness may be pain in your shoulder or hips. If feelings of stiffness don’t go away after some movement, it may be an early sign.
Injuries to your limbs may also cause stiffness if they have not been given time to heal. Other medical conditions, such as arthritis, may also cause stiffness.
Those suffering from Parkinson’s may have great difficulty maintaining their balance, even with mobility aids like railings or walkers. They may also be susceptible to falls. A person with the disease may also not be able to stand up straight properly. They may instead stoop, lean or slouch when they stand.
Other conditions that may cause balance problems include low blood pressure, a previous injury, or problems with your bones or skeletal structure.
Some people experience a sensation of dizziness, or even fainting from time to time. These are signs of low blood pressure, which may also be linked to Parkinson’s disease.
Everyone has some dizzy spells when they stand up suddenly. However, if it happens frequently, consult your doctor and have your blood pressure checked.
Non-motor functions are those that are typically not controlled by the limbs. This can include controlling the volume of your voice, facial expressions, memory and mood regulations.
For those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, these functions may also be affected. A person’s facial expression may be “masked,” reducing or preventing the ability to make other expressions. The volume of one’s voice may become softer and softer over time. The voice may also turn monotonous, having only one constant tone or pitch. It’s also possible for cognitive and mood issues to develop, such as memory loss, depression, anxiety and psychosis to name a few.
The symptoms listed above may also be a factor for other conditions unrelated to Parkinson’s. Consult your doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing these signs and schedule an appointment if you are concerned about Parkinson’s or other medical conditions.
For more information about how Episcopal SeniorLife Communities can support you or a loved one, contact one of our senior living consultants. For more information about Parkinson’s support services in the Rochester area, visit https://parkinson.org/greaterrochester/programs-support/chapterbasedparkinsonsprograms