Early Warning Signs of Parkinson's Disease

Most people are familiar with the most common signs of Parkinson’s Disease: tremors in the hands, stooped posture, slow movements and a shuffling gait.  However, there are many more signs, some of which show up years before people are ever aware that the disease is beginning. 

Below are some of the most common signs.  If you have one of these signs or symptoms, please do not think that you have Parkinson’s, as there are other conditions that may cause the symptoms.  If you have more than one or even several of these symptoms, you should discuss them with your doctor as a precaution.

Loss of Smell: This is one of the earliest signs of Parkinson’s Disease that may show up years before the diagnosis is ever made. 

Constipation:  Like loss of smell, constipation is a sign that can show up decades before other symptoms.  If you have less than one bowel movement per day, you may have constipation. 

Trouble sleeping:  Jerky and wild movements during sleep, falling out of bed and vivid dreams are associated with a progression to Parkinson’s Disease.

Stiffness:  Do you have stiffness in you body, especially your arms or legs, that does not go away with activity?  Maybe you notice that one arm doesn’t move as much when you walk.  A hallmark of Parkinson’s disease is muscle rigidity.  This can make it hard to move smoothly and you may notice some jerky motions when moving our limbs. The rigidity can also cause you to move slowly, which is called “Bradykinesia.” 

Poor handwriting:  Has your handwriting worsened?  Typically, people with Parkinson’s Disease will notice that their handwriting becomes slower and smaller as they write.  In addition, they may see that their lines start to slant upwards across the paper as they write.

Tremor:  A slow resting tremor may be seen in the hands, arms, legs, jaw or tongue.  The tremor usually goes away when moving, but will return when resting.   



Changes in posture:  One of the hallmarks of the disease is the stooped “camptocormic” posture that develops.  People with Parkinson’s begin to feel as if they are falling backwards when standing upright, due to a change in postural awareness, and as a result they bend forward to prevent falling. 



Voice changes:  Have you noticed a change in your voice?  Perhaps it is more monotone or quieter.  Often times this will be noticed first by people around you. 

Masked Face:  As the muscles in your body become stiffer it becomes harder to make spontaneous facial expressions; this is commonly referred to as a “masked face”.  People may mistakenly think that you are sad or angry even when you are happy due to the inability to express you emotions through facial movements.

Dizziness: Do you feel dizzy or feel like you are going to “pass out” when you stand up?  This is usually due to an inability to regulate blood pressure and can be an early sign of Parkinson’s. 

If you notice some of these signs in you or a loved one, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.  Early treatment can lead to improved function and a slower progression of symptoms.

For more information on Parkinson’s Disease or to schedule a consultation to see how functional neurology approaches can help contact CALI.