Parkinson's disease is a disorder of the nervous system that primarily affects bodily movement. It develops because of the impairment or death of certain nerve cells in the brain. Parkinson's is mostly diagnosed in older individuals. It's important to watch for the early signs since the disorder progresses with time. Here are some of the signs and symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease. Individuals over age 50 who exhibit them should receive medical attention as soon as possible.
One of the earliest and most widely occurring symptoms of Parkinson's disease is resting tremors. Usually, this begins with the trembling or shaking of one finger. Sometimes the hand or foot on one side of the body experiences tremors or, in rare cases, the face or jaw. The tremors mostly begin when the affected body part is relaxed, which is why they're called "resting tremors." Not all tremors are symptomatic of Parkinson's. Be very specific in relaying the nature of the trembling to a physician to prevent misdiagnosis.
In healthy individuals, muscles contract on movement and relax when at rest. However, those with Parkinson's experience stiff muscle tone. This means the muscles of an affected body part do not relax even when at rest. This leads to a limited range of motion, which is uncomfortable and sometimes painful. This muscle rigidity is mostly felt in the trunk, limbs, or neck though it can occur anywhere in the body. Affected individuals often do not swing their arms as they ordinarily would while walking due to muscle rigidity.
Also known as bradykinesia, slowness of movement is another distinctive feature of Parkinson's disease. It causes people to perform ordinary activities, such as walking, moving, or changing clothes, more slowly than normal. They also experience a reduction in spontaneous movements and difficulty in performing repetitive movements. Some telling signs include a slow walk with short, shuffling strides. Difficulty in tapping fingers and slow, soft speech are other markers of bradykinesia. In addition, ordinary tasks such as eating, dressing, or brushing teeth take too much time to complete. These symptoms become more noticeable as the disease progresses. If left untreated, they can cause a serious impediment to routine functioning.
Postural instability is common among Parkinson's patients. They are unable to maintain an upright posture because they've lost some reflexes that are required. In advanced stages, patients may be unable to maintain balance. They may topple backward on being jostled even slightly. Those with Parkinson's often face difficulty in turning, pivoting, and standing upright as well. In some cases, patients also develop a tendency to sway when they move after a period of muscular inactivity.
As Parkinson's progresses, the symptoms become increasingly hard to miss. Patients typically develop changes in their facial appearance as well as speech patterns. The face tends to have a fixed, vacant expression called the "Parkinson's Mask." Loss of facial muscle movement restricts facial expressions, including smiling, frowning, and laughing. Similarly, weakened throat muscles cause the individual's speech to become low-toned, unclear, and sometimes slurred. Choking, coughing, and drooling may also plague Parkinson's patients in advanced stages of the disease.
A most peculiar symptom caused by Parkinson's is the freezing of one's gait. This symptom is different from muscle rigidity and bradykinesia. Parkinson's patients sometimes hesitate to forward, feeling as if their feet are glued to the ground. This freezing may be temporary, with the person assuming normal gait after the first stride. However, it may cause loss of balance and a high risk of falling. This is especially true when it occurs during pivoting, walking on uneven surfaces, or on the stairs. The symptom of freezing is considered to be potentially serious. If it occurs to you, seek out a physician.
An early indicator of Parkinson's is a change in the size of a person's handwriting. There can be a marked decrease in the letter sizes and spaces between the words. Such handwriting is called Micrographia. Because of the changes in their brains, individuals with Parkinson's have difficulty controlling the movement of their fingers and hands. If you have noticed that your handwriting has become smaller than previously, get yourself checked out.
Not being able to sleep at night can cause a lot of discomfort, but it doesn't indicate Parkinson's on its own. However, tossing and turning even while you are deeply asleep may be a sign of Parkinson's. In addition to trouble sleeping, you may also fall out of the bed.
Straining to move the bowels can be a sign of Parkinson's and is also the most overlooked symptom. As Parkinson's affects the nervous system that controls the movement of muscles, it can certainly affect the bowels and bladder. The bowel can lose its sensitivity and become inefficient, slowing down the digestive process and movement of waste.
The central nervous system is severely affected by Parkinson's. As the nervous system loses control over the body, changes in the skin become apparent. A lot of patients complain about excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis, for no apparent reason. For women, this symptom can feel just like hot flashes during menopause.
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