Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's Disease: Recognizing Early Signs

For the Urquiza family profiled in Episode1 of Your Turn to Care, Parkinson's disease drastically changes their mother Marta's life. Parkinson's is a degenerative disorder resulting from loss of cells in the brain that generate dopamine, an important chemical affecting mood and movement of the body. When the brain stops making dopamine, this causes symptoms that can include shaking, rigidity, difficulty walking and gait, and slow movement.

In later stages of the disease, some people may suffer cognitive and behavioral problems. Medical treatment is available to manage early motor symptoms of Parkinson's.

Early treatment is important. It can mean a longer, healthier life for someone with Parkinson's disease. If you have more than one of these symptoms, it's very important to see your doctor.

The National Parkinson Foundation has ten early warning signs of the disease.

  1. Tremors or shaking. Twitching or shaking limbs is a common early sign of Parkinson's disease.
  2. Small handwriting. Sudden changes in handwriting--especially if writing becomes smaller or more crowded--could be a sign of Parkinson's disease.
  3. Loss of smell. Being unable to smell certain foods, such as bananas, dill pickles and licorice could be a sign of Parkinson's disease.
  4. Trouble sleeping. Thrashing around in bed, kicking or punching during sleep could be a sign of Parkinson's disease. While moving in sleep is normal, very sudden movements in sleep, especially movements that disturbs a spouse, can be a sign of the disease.
  5. Trouble moving and walking. Feeling a stiffness in arms and legs that does not go away could be a sign of Parkinson's disease. Other people may notice that you appear stiff or you may notice you don't swing your arms when you walk.
  6. Constipation. Trouble moving bowels every day could be an early sign of Parkinson's disease.
  7. Soft or low voice. If your voice is suddenly very soft or sounds hoarse when you speak in a normal tone, this could be a sign of Parkinson's disease. If there has been a change in your voice, you should see your doctor.
  8. Masked face. Having a serious-looking face that makes you appear depressed or even mad--even when you are not in a bad mood--could be a sign of Parkinson's disease. Sometimes other people may notice that you have a blank stare or do not blink.
  9. Dizziness and fainting. Feeling dizzy or fainting can be linked to low blood pressure that is linked to Parkinson's disease.
  10. Stooping or hunching over. If you or anyone else notice that you aren't standing up straight and have begun stooping, leaning or slouching, you should see your doctor. This could be a sign of Parkinson's disease.

Photo Credit: The image associated with this entry was taken by Flick user Ed Yourdon. It was used under Common Commons license.

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