The Common Symptoms That Might Be Parkinson’s Disease
About 1 in 100 people over the age of 60 are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Clearly, this disease can affect anyone, especially in later years. So, it’s important to know the signs. The following symptoms could indicate Parkinson’s disease. Be sure to get checked out if you have one common, irritating symptom (page 10).
1. Slow to blink
- What’s normal: The average person blinks 15-20 times per minute.
Parkinson’s can cause someone to blink their eyes just 1-2 times per minute. This can cause “dry eye,” a common symptom of the disease, reports the American Parkinson Disease Associaton. Many rely on artificial tears to reduce discomfort. In rare cases, someone with Parkinson’s may struggle to open their eyes at all.
Next: The unfortunate cancer linked to Parkinson’s disease
- What’s normal: Melanoma accounts for about 1% of all skin cancers diagnosed in the U.S., but it causes the most skin cancer deaths.
Studies indicate people with Parkinson’s have a lower overall risk of cancer, reports the APDA. However, research finds that one type of skin cancer, melanoma, is consistently connected to Parkinson’s. This type of skin cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body, so experts recommend those with Parkinson’s undergo annual skin exams with a dermatologist.
Next: You’re all wet and you don’t know why.
3. Excessive sweating
- What’s normal: You perspire when you experience changes in body temperature, the outside temperature, or emotional state.
Once your nervous system is affected by Parkinson’s, your body will struggle to regulate basic functions. This can cause changes in your sweat glands, so you may find yourself sweating excessively for no good reason.
Next: Are you suddenly more impulsive or absentminded?
4. Personality changes
- What’s normal: We all change and grow as we experience life.
Although a controversial subject among experts, many recognize the reality of what’s called “Parkinson’s Personality,” explains the APDA. Loss of motivation, introversion, and withdrawal are reported among many with Parkinson’s. Cognitive changes can cause one to be more absentminded, disorderly, undisciplined, and pessimistic. In young onset Parkinson’s, people have reported being more neurotic, fearful, and careless.
Next: A rather embarrassing Parkinson’s symptom
5. Poor posture and balance
- What’s normal: An injury or sickness could cause you to temporarily stand crookedly.
If you’re suddenly stooping over or feel unstable while standing, you need to consult a doctor. Parkinson’s can affect the reflexes responsible for proper posture. As a result, those with Parkinson’s often lose their balance while standing or easily fall backward.
Next: Do friends and family often ask you to repeat yourself?
6. A softer voice
- What’s normal: A cold, cough, or other sickness could affect your voice but it should return to normal when you recover.
Those with Parkinson’s may notice they speak softly or others struggle to hear them when they think they’re speaking normally. Struggling to form words can also occur. Changes in speech may signal a health issue, even if it isn’t Parkinson’s, so it’s important to see a doctor.
Next: You’ll need Head & Shoulders with this symptom.
- What’s normal: Dandruff can develop when you experience dry skin or sensitivity from a new hair product.
Changes in your skin, especially oiliness and flaking, can occur with Parkinson’s disease. Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, the condition mostly affects the scalp, face, and chest. It can happen at any time during a Parkinson’s diagnosis, and it’s more likely to occur in men.
Next: Over 50% of Parkinson’s patients have had this terrifying symptom.
- What’s normal: It’s not common to see, hear, experience, sense, or believe things that aren’t really there.
Sadly, over half of those with Parkinson’s disease will experience delusions and/or hallucinations, reports the APDA. But only 10% to 20% tell their physicians, perhaps due to the stigma linked with psychosis. Hallucinations are when you experience things that aren’t there; delusions mean you believe things that aren’t based in reality.
Next: One of the most overlooked signs of Parkinson’s
9. Loss of smell
- What’s normal: A cold, flu, or allergies can cause a stuffy nose.
Many patients report a loss of smell is one of the first symptoms they notice. The connection between Parkinson’s and smell is not perfectly clear. Some experts think the area of the brain that controls smell is one of the first areas affected by the disease.
Next: The most common symptom of Parkinson’s disease
10. Hand tremors
- What’s normal: If you’ve recently exercised or experienced an injury or extreme stress, your body could experience shaking.
Tremors can happen to anyone at any age, and they don’t necessarily signal Parkinson’s. But if you notice tremors when you’re in a relaxed state, it’s a sign something is wrong.
Next: Take a break from the keyboard and test your handwriting.
11. Changes in handwriting
- What’s normal: Aging can cause stiff fingers and poor vision, which can both affect your handwriting.
People can distinguish one person from another based on the way they form letters. But if you notice your handwriting is different than it used to be or is getting worse, it could be a sign of Parkinson’s. With this disease, your written words typically get more crowded.
Next: No one wants their meals to be disrupted by this issue.
12. Difficulty swallowing
- What’s normal: A large bit of food or food that’s too hot may make it hard to swallow. You may also have difficulty swallowing if you experience dry mouth or don’t chew food well enough.
Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, can be a symptom of many health issues. However, if your brain’s swallowing center and the nerves connected to your esophagus aren’t working well, it can indicate Parkinson’s disease.
Next: Did you stand up too fast?
13. Dizziness or fainting
- What’s normal: You occasionally stand up quickly and feel dizzy.
If you’re getting dizzy or feel faint regularly you should take it seriously. Feeling dizzy can be “a sign of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson’s,” according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.
Next: You may think this indicates other digestive issues.
14. Frequent constipation
- What’s normal: Many medications can cause constipation. But the most common cause is a lack of water or fiber in your diet.
Since Parkinson’s affects the nervous system, constipation can be a sign of the disease. The autonomic nervous system controls digestion, which affects bowel movements. Constipation can signal other things, too. But if you experience constipation along with other symptoms, it may be Parkinson’s.
Next: We all take this aspect of our bodies for granted.
15. Loss of automatic movements
- What’s normal: Most normal stiffness should go away as you move your joints. But an injury to your limbs may temporarily cause “normal” stiffness, too.
When you walk, you naturally swing your arms. But with Parkinson’s, these “automatic” movements can stop. It’s usually directly related to muscle stiffness. Picking up your legs when you walk is also a sign that something’s off with your muscles.
Next: Counting sheep won’t fix this problem.
16. Difficulty sleeping
- What’s normal: Many factors contribute to sleeping patterns, including caffeine, temperature, electronics, alcohol, artificial light, sleep apnea, and lack of exercise.
Talk to your doctor if you were once a peaceful sleeper but now toss and turn at night. Although trouble sleeping can signal many things, Parkinson’s isn’t something you want to overlook. It’s believed the disease affects the regions of the brain that control sleep habits.
Next: If this changes, it could be a sign of something serious.
17. Depression and mood changes
- What’s normal: Although not “normal” — you should consult a doctor — depression can be affected by genetics, medications, brain function, and stressful events.
Parkinson’s is attributed to a lack of dopamine in the brain. Low levels of things like dopamine and serotonin are linked to depression. Sometimes, people become depressed after their diagnosis. But in other cases, the depression can begin years before any additional symptoms show up.
Next: You might not notice this, but those around you will.
18. Slow overall movement
- What’s normal: If you’re sore from exercising or recently experienced an injury, you may move a bit slower as you recover.
Since muscle stiffness often accompanies Parkinson’s, it can affect overall movement. If your arms aren’t swinging, and it’s difficult to pick your feet up off the floor, you may start moving slower. Those around you may notice you look stiff and ask if something is wrong.
Next: Your chances of being diagnosed
You have about a 1 in 100 chance of being diagnosed
About 1 in 100 people over the age of 60 are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Research has indicated there are about one million people living with Parkinson’s in the United States. The disease is extremely rare for those younger than 60. But there are other diseases that express similar symptoms to Parkinson’s, so the disease can sometimes be misdiagnosed.