Parkinson’s Disease


Parkinson's disease symptoms and signs may vary from person to person. Early signs may be mild and may go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

Parkinson's signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may notice a back-and-forth rubbing of your thumb and forefinger, known as a pill-rolling tremor. One characteristic of Parkinson's disease is a tremor of your hand when it is relaxed (at rest).

  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson's disease may reduce your ability to move and slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk, or you may find it difficult to get out of a chair. Also, you may drag your feet as you try to walk, making it difficult to move.

  • Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can limit your range of motion and cause you pain.

  • Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson's disease.

  • Loss of automatic movements. In Parkinson's disease, you may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.

  • Speech changes. You may have speech problems as a result of Parkinson's disease. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections.

  • Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.

When to see a doctor?

See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease — not only to diagnose your condition but also to rule out other causes for your symptoms.

Treatments

Parkinson's disease can't be cured, but medications can help control your symptoms, often dramatically. In some later cases, surgery may be advised.

Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes, especially ongoing aerobic exercise. In some cases, physical therapy that focuses on balance and stretching also is important. A speech-language pathologist may help improve your speech problems.

Exercise

Exercising may increase your muscle strength, flexibility and balance. Exercise can also improve your well-being and reduce depression or anxiety.

Your doctor may suggest you work with a physical therapist to learn an exercise program that works for you. You may also try exercises such as walking, swimming, gardening, dancing, water aerobics or stretching.

Parkinson's disease can disturb your sense of balance, making it difficult to walk with a normal gait. Exercise may improve your balance. These suggestions may also help:

  • Try not to move too quickly.

  • Aim for your heel to strike the floor first when you're walking.

  • If you notice yourself shuffling, stop and check your posture. It's best to stand up straight.

  • Look in front of you, not directly down, while walking.

Avoiding falls

In the later stages of the disease, you may fall more easily. In fact, you may be thrown off balance by just a small push or bump. The following suggestions may help:

  • Make a U-turn instead of pivoting your body over your feet.

  • Distribute your weight evenly between both feet, and don't lean.

  • Avoid carrying things while you walk.

  • Avoid walking backward.

Daily living activities

Daily living activities — such as dressing, eating, bathing and writing — can be difficult for people with Parkinson's disease. An occupational therapist can show you techniques that make daily life easier.


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