Could it Be Parkinson’s Disease? 10 Signs to Look For

Female doctor holds woman’s hand as she walks with a cane outside.

Nearly 1 million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease, and this number is expected to rise to 1.2 million by the year 2030. The incidence of Parkison’s increases with age, and men are 1.5 times more likely to have this disease than women.

In honor of Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, let’s review what Parkinson’s disease is and signs you or someone you love could be affected.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by the nerves.

When someone has Parkinson’s disease, the neurons in their brain that produce the chemical messenger dopamine gradually break down or die. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes irregular brain activity that leads to problems with movement.

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but researchers say that in some cases, certain genetic changes, environmental triggers or brain changes may be factors.  

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10 Early Signs of Parkinson’s

Are you concerned you or someone you love has Parkison’s disease? Here are 10 early signs you can look for, but remember that having some of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean you have Parkinson’s. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis.

1. A tremor or slight shaking of a finger, thumb, hand or chin when at rest

2. Handwriting changes, including small or crowded words

3. Loss or decreased sense of smell

4. Sleeping troubles, such as thrashing, sudden movements or acting out dreams

5. Stiffness of the body, arms or legs causing difficulties with walking or moving

6. Constipation

7. A change of voice that sounds soft, breathy or hoarse

8. Facial masking causing a serious, depressed or mad look

9. Dizziness or fainting

10. Change in posture causing stooping or hunching

Check out these 9 Tips for Preventing Slips and Falls.

What to do if You Have Parkinson’s Symptoms

If you’re concerned that you may have Parkinson’s, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor may then refer you to a neurologist who has specific training with movement disorders.

There are no standard diagnostic tests that diagnose Parkinson’s, but your doctor may take a neurological history, perform an in-office exam, and order imaging testing to help confirm Parkinson’s.

With early diagnosis, you may be able to utilize medications, supplements and special exercise programs to help manage your symptoms. The National Council on Aging recommends these five steps for living with Parkinson’s:

1. Do activities that provide you with the most meaning
2. Care for your emotional health by talking to someone
3. Create a routine with healthy habits, like small changes in your nutrition
4. Be physically active in whatever way works for you
5. Find a doctor who specializes in Parkinson’s

Want more? Read our blog, Chronic Illness and Disability: 8 Tips to Cope.

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