Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
Some of the most characteristic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are stiffness, trembling hands (or the extremities in general), difficulty in moving, and postural instability. However, are these the only ones that can occur with this disease? Find out in this article.
Parkinson’s patients can experience a variety of symptoms as the disease progresses. Treatment helps slow its progression, but, even so, ups and downs can occur.
It must also be borne in mind that each case is different. In this sense, the MSD Manual and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research state that some people never manifest tremors and in others, it becomes less evident as the disease progresses.
Stiffness, tremor (even when the muscles are relaxed and at rest), slow movement, and loss of coordination and balance are some of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The tremors occur even when the muscles are relaxed and at rest. According to the MSD Manual, this is one of the most characteristic symptoms of Parkinson’s. Although there are patients who never experience it, more than half usually do. And, among those who do experience it, there are cases of people who experience it less at time goes by.
This symptom appears suddenly and follows a certain rhythm. It usually begins in a hand that’s at rest. There are cases where it affects the entire arm, or even both arms and legs.
Tremors usually decrease with voluntary movements and disappear completely during sleep. On the other hand, they can be aggravated by emotional stress and fatigue.
Muscle stiffness is another of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This not only hinders the patient’s movements but also produces resistance when the doctor tries to move or flex a patient’s limb (the arm, for example) during an examination. This is known as muscular hypertonia.
When resistance is overcome, the movement isn’t fluid, but starts and stops repeatedly. This is known as sprocket stiffness.
Shuffling when walking
Considering that Parkinson’s disease makes it difficult for a person to move in all directions, it isn’t surprising that it also influences the way they walk. Generally, patients find it as difficult to get their legs straight when walking as they do to lift them. Consequently, they drag their feet and move slowly.
Additionally, according to the Madrid Parkinson Association, “sometimes quick, short steps are taken, with difficulty trying to stand up. There are episodes of blockage (the feet seem to be glued to the ground)”.
Slow movements (bradykinesia) is another of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It occurs both in voluntary and automatic movements.
Not only do patients with Parkinson’s often walk slowly, but they often also keep their arms almost immobile while doing so, when it would be normal to swing them slightly.
Slowness doesn’t only affect the limbs, but can also be seen in writing, blinking, and facial expressions. Thus, the patient may blink more slowly and show progressively less facial expressiveness. Slowness often goes hand in hand with clumsiness in handling objects.
The tremor can affect the jaw and tongue area, which, in turn, can cause speech problems. Most commonly, patients speak slowly, with a monotonous tone, and sometimes stutter due to difficulties in articulating words.
Due to all of the above, Parkinson’s patients also have difficulty writing and performing related tasks. They generally write slowly because they have difficulty drawing lines, and the handwriting is fuzzy and small in size (known as a micrograph).
Lack of facial expression
As the disease progresses, there is less facial expressiveness in people with Parkinson’s disease. This is because there is less mobility in the facial muscles. This is known as hyponymy.
In addition to having an expressionless face, the patient may keep their mouth open, drool, and have difficulties speaking and swallowing, as stated by the Parkinson Burgos Association.
Apathy and mood disorders
As the scientific evidence indicates, mood disorders aren’t uncommon in Parkinson’s disease. Depression and anxiety are some of the most common, and they can also be accompanied by states of apathy and others.
Changes in their skin
While it’s true that, as the skin ages, it tends to become drier, in the case of Parkinson’s patients, this dryness could be more pronounced. However, this is still under research, as there are patients who, instead of having a tendency to dryness, rather have a greater tendency to have oily skin.
Although the tremor usually disappears during the night’s rest, Parkinson’s patients may have trouble sleeping for other reasons. For example, they may have the urge to get up to urinate frequently or they may experience a worsening of other of their symptoms.
Insomnia is a common disorder, as well as REM sleep disorder. In turn, these can contribute to cognitive problems, daytime sleepiness, and depression.
In addition to the symptoms already mentioned, patients may experience other symptoms, such as the following that we’ll discuss below.
“Pseudobulbar affection (APB) is the expression of involuntary and uncontrollable laughter or crying”. So explains a study that included in the sample a group of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Low blood pressure or fluctuations in blood pressure
When the patient stands up or makes other similar postural changes, they may experience a sudden drop in blood pressure. This is known as orthostatic hypotension.
As the Parkinson’s Foundation explains:
“A wide range of changes in thinking and memory can occur in people with Parkinson’s disease, including slow thought processes, forgetfulness, confusion about routine tasks, poor judgment, compulsive behaviors, paranoia, anxiety, and changes of personality”.
In more advanced stages, the patient with Parkinson’s may not only have memory problems, but can also develop dementia.
Late-stage symptoms and complications
In advanced stages, Parkinson’s disease can produce other symptoms, in addition to those already mentioned. Some of them would be dyskinesia, hunched posture, swallowing problems, constipation, urinary retention, problems with balance, chronic fatigue, and frostbite, among others.
When to go to the doctor?
If you notice several of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease mentioned above, it’s best to see a doctor for a check-up. The sooner a diagnosis can be made, the sooner it’ll be possible to know what the origin of the problem is and what may be the most appropriate treatment.