Senior Health

2/25/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that there are about 4 million people suffering from Parkinson’s disease around the world. The condition was named after British doctor James Parkinson, who first described it as “the shaking palsy” in 1817. Parkinson’s disease usually is diagnosed in people between 50 and 69 years old. It’s a chronic disease that worsens over time, but early detection and treatment can help slow the progress of the disease. Researchers from several fields, from neurologists to scientists who study gait, are working to discover early signs of the disease, so sufferers can start getting treatment earlier.

When diagnosing the disease, doctors look at both motor (related to movement) and non-motor symptoms (often mood-related or cognitive issues). While the symptoms listed here are known early signs of Parkinson’s disease, remember that only a doctor can diagnose the disease. But if you or a loved one has some of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to talk to a doctor.

1. Tremor

A tremor or twitch in the hands or fingers, usually beginning on just one side, is probably the most well-known early symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Foot tremor or tongue tremor, which can be heard as a tongue click, are similar, lesser-known symptoms. Other Parkinson’s patients have reported the sensation of a tremor that doesn’t result in visible movement.

2. Changes in taste and smell

Hypogeusia (a decrease in taste) and dysgeusia (the distortion of taste) are common in patients. Olfactory dysfunction, or hyposmia, is often an early sign of the disease.

3. Back or shoulder pain

Parkinson’s results in hypertonia, or increased tightness of muscle tone. This muscle rigidity and inability to relax can cause shoulder or back pain.

4. Slightly bent-over posture

A slightly hunched, bent-over posture is another symptom of the tight muscles that result from Parkinson’s.

5. Restless Sleep

If you sleep restlessly or kick out or hit in your sleep, you may have REM sleep behavior disorder (or RBD). Research has suggested that there is a connection between RBD and Parkinson’s, and that RBD sufferers have a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s. Patients with RBD lack dopamine, just like Parkinson’s patients do.

6. Irregular Arm Swing

Neurologists at Penn State studying gait, or how people walk, discovered that Parkinson’s patients swing one arm noticeably less than the other when they walk. This asymmetrical arm swing may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease.

7. Impaired color discrimination

The inability to tell colors from one another is one of the early, but uncommon, signs of Parkinson’s disease.

8. Changes in handwriting

Lack of muscle flexibility and fine motor control in the hands can bring on changes in handwriting. Consequently, Parkinson’s patients often use handwriting that is small and cramped; early changes can be one of the signs of Parkinson’s disease.

9. Abnormal physical weakness

Patients often report the sense of extreme physical weakness, or asthenia. This can be an early sign of the disease.

10. Constipation

Parkinson’s disease affects the autonomic nervous system, or the nerves responsible for bodily functions, like digestion, that we don’t have any conscious control over. In addition, the same muscle weakness that causes tremors affects the muscles that push food through the digestive tract.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff