Parkinson's Disease Symptoms
Life After Diagnosis
Some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) are hard for even specialists to detect. Others are obvious even to an untrained eye. And Parkinson’s symptoms are different for different patients. Many patients experience some symptoms and not others, and the pace at which the disease worsens varies on an individual basis. Keep in mind that only a doctor can make a Parkinson’s diagnosis and that any one symptom of Parkinson’s could be caused by other conditions. Visit a movement disorders specialist if you think you may be experiencing Parkinson’s symptoms.
- What are the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s?
- What are the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s?
- Is Parkinson’s causing my symptoms?
What Are the Motor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease?
People are usually more familiar with the motor symptoms of PD, as these are the signs of the disease that are noticeable from the outside. These symptoms, known as the "cardinal" symptoms of PD, include:
- Bradykinesia (slowness of movement) – slowing down and loss of spontaneous and voluntary movement
- Rigidity – unusual stiffness in a limb or other body part
- Resting tremor – an uncontrollable movement that affects a limb when it is at rest and stops for the duration of a voluntary movement
Other motor symptoms also appear in PD:
- Postural instability – problems with standing or walking, or impaired balance and coordination
- Other physical symptoms, such as gait problems and reduced facial expression, may also occur due to the same disruption of movement that causes the better-known tremor and slowness
What Are the Non-motor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease?
Doctors are increasingly recognizing the presence and effects of other symptoms of PD that are sometimes called "non-motor symptoms" or "dopamine-non-responsive." These symptoms are common and can have a major impact on Parkinson’s patients. They can include:
- Cognitive impairment – decline in ability to multi-task and/or concentrate and potentially decline in intellectual functioning
- Mood disorders – depression and anxiety
- Problems sleeping – REM Sleep Disorder, where individuals act out their dreams
- Low blood pressure when standing
- Speech and swallowing problems
- Unexplained pains, drooling and smell loss
Is Parkinson's Disease Causing my Symptoms?
Even if you experience symptoms common among people with PD, they may in fact be brought on by a different condition. Consult a doctor if you notice a change in your body with no obvious cause. While visiting the doctor, try to be as specific as possible when describing your symptoms. You may be referred to a movement disorders specialist , a neurologist with particular expertise in PD and other movement disorders.
Dr. Joseph Jankovic , a member of the MJFF Scientific Advisory Board , developed the screening questionnaire below to help determine PD and parkinsonism (a range of neurological disorders that resemble PD).
Remember: Parkinson's disease is rare. Even if your answer to several of these questions is yes, it's more likely that you don't have Parkinson's than that you do. The most important step you can take is to see your doctor and get information about what is causing your symptoms.
- Have you been getting slower in your usual daily activities?
- Is your handwriting smaller?
- Is your speech slurred or softer?
- Do you have trouble arising from a chair?
- Do your lips, hand, arms and/or legs shake?
- Have you noticed more stiffness?
- Do you have trouble buttoning buttons or dressing?
- Do you shuffle your feet and/or take smaller steps when you walk?
- Do your feet seem to get stuck to the floor when walking or turning?
- Have you or others noted that you don't swing one arm when walking?
- Do you have more trouble with your balance?
- Have you or others noted that you stoop or have abnormal posture?
Printable Parkinson's Disease Glossary
See a term you're not familiar with? This free comprehensive guide defines the most commonly used terms for symptoms.