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Early Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Symptoms of PD come in two categories: motor (to do with movement) and non-motor (other symptoms).

Before Parkinson’s Disease (PD) becomes well established there are some symptoms, which are often noticed more easily by the friends and family of the person affected. Motor symptoms include motor changes such as tremor, stooping and shuffling. Non-motor symptoms have been increasingly appreciated as causes of major contributors to loss of quality of life in PD in recent years. Non motor symptoms include slower thinking, difficulty remembering names quickly and loss of ability to easily multi-task. There can be issues with bowel, bladder and sexual function. Anxiety and depression are common early symptoms in PD.

Some people just slow down. They may not recognise the significance of their slow movements. As people age they may automatically assume that whatever’s happening to them is part of ageing. It is  important  to recognise that slowing of movement or thinking could be explained by another underlying treatable disorder. This is why it is important to have a medical assessment early. (Read more about assessment here). 

As described in this post, there are symptoms and signs that are termed pre-motor. Pre-motor symptoms can develop years, four or five years before the early signs of tremor, slowing, stooping or shuffling and include reduced smell sense and dream enactment.

Early motor symptoms include:

Tremor: 

A tremor, or rhythmic shaking, is usually obvious to the person with PD and the people around them. While tremor is a classic symptom of PD, perhaps 20 or 30% of people with PD don’t have a tremor, or have very little tremor.

Muscle rigidity:

Muscular stiffness is another common symptom, although as with tremor, not everyone experiences this. Fatigue may be associated with muscle rigidity.

Stooping:

Those showing early signs of PD often stoop without being aware of it.

Shuffling:

A change in the affected person’ normal gait is quite common. The affected person may be unaware of the change. It may be friends and family who notice this first.

Being unaware:

Not noticing physical changes in movement seems to be part of the PD condition itself.

Micrographia (small writing): 

A person with Parkinson’s disease may find their writing is of normal size when starting to write, but gets progressively smaller as the writing process continues. Sometimes people say, “it just becomes like a line,” or “I’ve really got to concentrate” or “I can’t write, I have to print.” People may go back through their cheque books, for example, and find that compared with years ago, their writing has slowly become smaller.

 

As PD progresses, symptoms generally become more severe. For more information on longer term symptoms read this article.

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