How to Spot the Early Signs of Parkinson’s in Your Loved OneParkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects everyone differently; symptoms generally develop slowly over years, manifesting themselves differently from one person to the next. No two people experience Parkinson’s the same way so expectations will vary, but there are many commonalities that people with the disease share. What are the Early Symptoms of Parkinson’s? It is important to pay attention to the early signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s. Following are the ten most common signs of Parkinson’s disease (PD). It’s important to note that many of these symptoms can be caused by other common health issues. No single symptom should be cause for concern, but if you or a loved one are experiencing many of these symptoms it is best to consult a medical professional.
- Tremors: A slight shaking in the fingers, hand or chin – especially when a person isn’t moving – is one of the most common, early signs of the condition.
- Handwriting Changes: If handwriting starts to change – especially if it’s getting smaller, the letters are shrinking and the words are crowded together – it could be a sign of Parkinson’s called micropgraphia.
- Loss of Smell: If someone can no longer smell certain foods well – bananas, dill pickles, licorice – it could be an early sign of PD. Of course, this could simply be the result of a stuffed-up nose, cold or flu as well.
- Trouble Sleeping: Insomnia is often a result of many other emotional and physical issues but may indicate Parkinson’s, especially if the troubled sleeping involves thrashing around or sudden movements in the middle of the night that didn’t previously occur.
- Trouble Moving or Walking: Body stiffness and discomfort or mobility issues could be the result of over-exercising, being out of shape or arthritis. But if the stiffness and limb rigidity persist and don’t go away after moving or walking, if someone’s arms aren’t swinging the way they used to when they walk, or if they have lost their usual stride and are shuffling, it may be a sign of Parkinson’s. People sometimes say their feet seem “stuck to the floor.” Slowness of movements (bradykinesia) is a related symptom.
- Stooping or Hunching Over: While this could also indicate osteoporosis or be the result of an injury or some other skeletal issue, when someone isn’t standing up as straight as they used to and is slouching or walking hunched over, it is often one of the early signs of Parkinson’s.
- Dizziness or Fainting: In addition to an altered gait and stature, balance problems and feeling dizzy or faint can also be early indicators of Parkinson’s. Low blood pressure, which can cause this dizzy feeling, is often linked to PD.
- Changes in Voice: A soft or low voice, and/or sounding hoarse all the time, may also be an early indicator of Parkinson’s.
- Masked Face: Another early sign of Parkinson’s is called a “masked face” or “facial masking.” This could take the form of a blank stare, a seemingly immobile and serious expression or angry look. If someone is staring off into space and seemingly expressionless, it should be noted.
- Constipation: This can also be an early sign of Parkinson's disease, but may also be a result of dehydration, lack of fiber in the diet and/or certain medications.
There are many ways to maintain a good quality of life when living with Parkinson’s. There is most likely a Parkinson’s Foundation in your area which can provide support and important resources, including networking groups and guidance on how to forge a path forward if someone lives alone without a primary caregiver.