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Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Julia Yang

Revised by Dr. Shien Tseng

The onset of Parkinson's disease typically occurs gradually, and there are many signs that can help to recognize it. As time passes, additional symptoms emerge, and some individuals may even experience cognitive decline or dementia.

Early indicators of Parkinson's disease may encompass changes in movement. Tremors, which are, as the name suggests, shaking, that affects hands, fingers, and other parts of the body, are a prominent feature of PD (Parkinson's disease). Issues in balance and coordination are also present, which can be seen in clumsiness (falling and dropping objects), loss of sense of smell (specifically detection of odor), changes in gait and difficulty walking, difficulty creating facial expressions, vocal changes (softer, more subdued voices), handwriting difficulties, and sleep disturbances, which involve issues like restless legs syndrome (RLS), which can lead to vivid dreams or acting out dreams during sleep. Problems with chewing and swallowing are also prominently seen. The muscles responsible for these functions can become less coordinated, thus increasing the risk of choking and eventually malnutrition. Because of this, individuals with PD may need to modify their diets or receive assistance with meal preparation.

In addition to the motor symptoms like tremors, stiffness, and changes in movement, Parkinson's disease can bring about a range of non-motor symptoms that significantly impact an individual's quality of life. These non-motor symptoms include mood changes, difficulties with various daily activities, and cognitive issues that can become more pronounced as the condition progresses. Those with PD commonly experience mood changes, and many often experience depression. The challenges posed by the disease, coupled with the physical limitations it imposes, can lead to a sense of helplessness and depression. Fatigue is another widespread symptom. The constant effort required to perform daily tasks can be difficult and very draining, leaving individuals feeling exhausted. This fatigue can further contribute to mood disturbances and a reduced quality of life. Over time, cognitive impairments may become more apparent in some individuals with Parkinson's disease. Though not everyone with PD experiences this, it is still a significant concern. Dementia can impact memory, reasoning, and decision-making abilities, making everyday tasks even more challenging.

Of course, the presence of these symptoms are not diagnostic of PD. Many other medical conditions can exhibit similar symptoms, which underscores the necessity of a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional. But, it is still important to remember that early caution is crucial in effectively managing the condition and implementing appropriate treatment strategies for PD, as early diagnosis can give access to various forms of support. This includes medication, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, all of which can be helpful in managing the symptoms of PD. Though there is no current cure for it, taking early action can be the first step in managing the condition and improving the overall well-being of individuals affected by Parkinson's disease.

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