Around 12,000 people in Ireland are living with Parkinson’s disease. More people are diagnosed every day, and as we get older many of us may worry about developing it. As a result, it is important that we are aware of the early signs of Parkinson’s disease. Knowing what to look out for can support you in getting support sooner.
What is Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease, often shortened simply to Parkinson’s, is a progressive neurological disorder. It primarily affects movement, leading to its classification as a movement disorder. Different people will develop the condition at different speeds, though many will require medication to manage the symptoms.
The condition is caused by a loss of dopamine. This is a chemical that supports our body’s nervous system, supporting it in sending signals to our brain. Whilst people naturally lose some dopamine as they age, Parkinson’s disease causes a faster rate of dopamine loss. This then results in impaired mobility.
Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease has a negative impact on mobility. It may cause stiffness in the limbs or impact your balance. However, these symptoms will usually develop in later stages of the disease. Here are ten early signs of Parkinson’s disease.
People with Parkinson’s often develop a tremor in their hands. In its early stages, however, the disease may instead cause subtle tremors in a finger or thumb. You may also have tremors in the chin.
Tremors may not always be early signs of Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes they are a sign of low blood sugar, stress, or injury. You may also have tremors after exercising.
Because Parkinson’s disease affects mobility, it may impact your ability to write. Stiffness in the hands may result in handwriting becoming smaller. Was your handwriting once neat and well-spaced out? Has it become small and cramped? You may be presenting early signs of Parkinson’s disease.
However, there are other potential causes. Small handwriting can also be caused by deteriorating vision. Alternatively, you may be developing arthritis in your hands, resulting in stiff fingers.
Loss of Smell
A lesser-known symptom of Parkinson’s disease is its impact on the senses. Because dopamine is responsible for transporting information through your nervous system, a lack of it can impact your sense of smell. If you are struggling to identify strong scents such as banana or liquorice, you should consider speaking with your doctor.
Of course, a loss of smell may not be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease. You may have a cold or flu. Keep in mind, too, that one of the symptoms of Coronavirus is a loss of taste or smell.
Dopamine is important for maintaining healthy sleep patterns. As Parkinson’s disease causes a loss of dopamine, it may result in poor sleep. If you find yourself restless in bed or moving around a lot in your sleep, this may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease. Similarly, sudden motions, known as “hypnic jerks”, could be a sign.
However, keep in mind that many people will have restless nights on occasion. Hypnic jerks, too, are common. You will find that they are often preceded by dreams that you are falling.
Sometimes you may find that your limbs feel particularly stiff when you are walking. It may be that your arms don’t swing as much as they used to. Alternatively, you may find yourself adopting a stooped position. Early signs of Parkinson’s disease may cause stiffness that doesn’t go away. Many patients comment that this stiffness begins in the shoulder or hips.
Difficulty moving around may also be the result of an injury. Have you had a fall recently? It could also be as a result of conditions such as arthritis.
If you find yourself straining when moving your bowels, this may be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease. The occasional day may be nothing to worry about, but if it becomes a regular occurrence, you should consult your doctor.
A lack of water and/or fibre in your diet may also cause problems. Ensure you are eating a balanced diet. You may also find that certain medications impact your bowel movements.
Have you found yourself speaking differently? Or are other people commenting on your voice? It may be that you are speaking more softly than usual. This can be one of the early signs of Parkinson’s disease. Soft or hoarse voices are both potential signs.
However, your voice can be affected by other factors. Illnesses, especially, may result in a hoarse or soft voice. When the illness passes, your voice will return to normal.
This early sign of Parkinson’s disease is when your facial expression appears angry, serious, or sad without you realising. It will most likely happen when your face is resting, such as when you’re sitting back to watch television. This is known as facial masking. If this is happening often, you should consult your doctor.
It is, though, a symptom that may be cause by medications. If you are on any medication, your doctor may take you off it – temporarily, at least – to check whether it is the cause of your facial masking.
If you are feeling dizzy more often, especially when you stand up from your chair, you may be experiencing an early sign of Parkinson’s disease. You may also faint sometimes. This can be a sign of low blood pressure, but this can be linked to Parkinson’s.
This may be caused by other conditions, and sometimes low blood pressure just happens. However, if it becomes a regular occurrence, you should get yourself checked by a doctor.
As mentioned early, stooping can be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease. You may find that you don’t stand quite as upright as you used to. It may also be difficult to adopt an upright position.
Stooping and hunching over can happen because of injury or illness. It may also be that poor posture over time has affected your bones or muscles. If you find yourself adopting a stooped position more often, you should consult your doctor.
Getting a Diagnosis
If you feel you are showing any early signs of Parkinson’s disease, you should visit your doctor and ask for an assessment. The earlier you are diagnosed, the sooner you can get support.
Unfortunately, Parkinson’s disease is currently incurable. However, treatments can make it easier to live with and slow its progression. Getting a diagnosis equips you with the knowledge needed to live life to the full despite your condition.
Extra Support at Home
We all want to continue living independently, regardless of age or health concerns. Fortunately, a Lifeline Alarm can help. In an emergency, a simple press of a button puts you in touch with our professional Response Team. They can then arrange help for you.
To find out more about our personal alarm service, get in touch with our team on our toll-free number: 1 800 937543. Alternatively, fill in our contact form and a member of our team will get back to you.