What are the symptoms of Parkinson's?
The symptoms of Parkinson's can be divided into motor and non-motor symptoms:
- Motor symptoms involve movement, such as tremor, freezing and rigidity
- Non-motor symptoms are not related to movement, and can include fatigue, depression and pain
Some early symptoms include:
- cramped handwriting or other writing changes
- tremor, especially in finger, hand or foot
- uncontrollable movements during sleep
- limb stiffness or slow movement (bradykinesia)
- voice changes
- rigid facial expression or ‘masking’
- stooped posture
What are the motor symptoms of Parkinson's?
The four primary motor symptoms of Parkinson's Disease are:
Slowness of movement (bradykinesia) and immobility (akinesia)
Slowed down movement is a gradual process that can affect various parts of your body, such as the face, arms or hands, as well as your gait and posture. Some movements, such as getting up, walking and turning around can be slowed down so much that they become increasingly difficult to perform. Bradykinesia also makes it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as fastening a shirt, cutting food with a knife or brushing your teeth.
Tremor is an involuntary, fairly regular, rhythmic movement of body parts. As the disease progresses, almost all patients will have a visible tremor, but it varies from patient to patient. Like other symptoms, tremor usually begins on one side of the body, often in the hands, and may later affect the feet, head and chin. In most patients, the tremor occurs in completely relaxed muscles (resting tremor) and disappears in targeted movements, so that everyday movements are still possible. However, the tremor can increase under tension or excitement.
Muscle Stiffness (Rigor)
Initially, many of the neck and shoulder muscles are affected by the stiffening of the muscles, so the symptoms can initially be confused with rheumatism or muscle tension. The muscle stiffness, caused by an increased state of tension of the musculature, can vary in different parts of the body.
Balance and posture are also affected as Parkinson’s progresses, so postural imbalance is often regarded as the fourth primary symptom. It can be present at diagnosis but becomes more prevalent and worsens as time goes on.
In order to avoid falls at home, tripping hazards such as carpets should be secured, and door sills adapted. In addition, handles and other walking aids should be used.
If you experience significant change in any of these motor symptoms, don’t hesitate to write it down and inform your doctor during your next appointment, as he or she may be able to adjust your medication to address the change in symptoms.
What are the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's?
The following non-motor symptoms affect various functions of the body:
Gastrointestinal tract disturbances
Gastrointestinal tract disturbances may include constipation, difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia), upper abdominal pain, abdominal distension, feeling of fullness (early satiety) and general malaise when eating, with burping. Nevertheless, you can have a positive influence on these symptoms by ensuring adequate hydration, a balanced, high-fibre diet and, as far as possible, physical activity.
Sleep disorders include fragmented sleep at night, waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep, nightmares, and daytime sleepiness. These may be caused by the disease itself or may be an unwanted effect of medications if the dose is too high or too low. In some cases, a concomitant condition, for example, an increased need to urinate (nocturnal urgency) may interrupt sleep during the night. Sleep disorders may also be a result of depression.