Parkinson’s disease is a common neurodegenerative disease. It is characterized by progressive loss of muscle control, stiffness, slowness, and impaired balance. As the disease progresses the patient presents symptoms such as difficulty in walking, talking, and completing simple tasks.
The adult onset of Parkinson’s disease is very common and it is mostly seen in the people aged 60 years or elder. Early onset i.e. age between 21-40 years or juvenile onset i.e. below 21 years of age can also occur. Before knowing the early and late symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, it is necessary to look at the stages of this disease.
Stages of Parkinson’s Disease
As supported by Parkinson’s disease foundation there are five stages of this disease,
Stage 1: At this stage, the patient presents mild symptoms which do not affect the quality of life.
Stage 2: As the disease progresses the symptoms start worsening and the completing daily activities become difficult and the patient takes more time to complete them.
Stage 3: This stage is considered as the mid-stage of Parkinson’s disease. The patient starts losing balance and a tendency to fall is very common. The patient movement becomes slow. There is visible impairment in performing daily activities such as dressing, eating or brushing teeth.
Stage 4: The disease further progresses at this stage and the patient presents the need for assistance in walking and performing daily activities.
Stage 5: This is the most advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease. The patient now needs full-time assistance with living as he is unable to walk on self. The patient is bed ridden and might also experience hallucinations and delusions.
Early Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease starts in the brain cells known as neurons. Neurons release a substance called dopamine and control the movements of the body. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease start when the neurons die and the level of dopamine in the brain decreases. Various studies suggest that by the time the symptoms appear the brain has lost around 60-80 percent of neurons.
The early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are often missed as they are very mild. They usually start on one side of the body and are related to voluntary or involuntary motor functions.
Tremors: This is one of the most noticeable early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The patient experiences twitching, shaking of fingers, hand, or foot. These tremors occur while at rest but not when the individual is involved in a task. They may worsen as the patient is tired, excited or much stressed.
Stiffness: The patient may experience stiffness and slowing down of the movements. As the Parkinson’s disease mostly affects the elderly or the people aged 60 and above, rigidity is absolutely normal development in many. In patients with Parkinson’s disease, the stiffness does not go away as the patient begins the movement. The patient experience shuffling gait and jerkier motions.
Micrographia: One of the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease also include micrographia. This is a medical terminology for small handwriting. The Parkinson’s disease patients the writing appears cramped. The alphabets appear smaller than normal, and the words are spaced closely. This happens due to the rigidity of the muscles and pain. There is a loss of fine hand movements.
Sleep Problems: As a person ages, there is difficulty in sleeping, but a patient with Parkinson’s disease might experience a lot of tossing and turning preventing sleep. While disturbed sleep is one of the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, the patient might also experience uncontrollable movements such as kicking, movement of the hand, or even falling out of bed.
Changes in Voice: A patient in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease often speaks in a low tone and a hoarse voice. Although the voice is crystal clear there is an unintentional slowing down of speech. The patient might also experience slurred speech.
Masking: Patients with Parkinson’s disease are found giving a blank or a serious look, even while a light-hearted conversation is going on. The disease makes the movement or the control of the muscles of the face difficult resulting in a blank stare from the patient. This is also one of the commonest early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Posture: A leaning or a stooped posture is noticed in Parkinson’s disease. Impairment or lost reflexes makes it difficult to adjust or maintain the balance, which presents as an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease.
Late Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease
Continued loss of brain cells leads to secondary or late symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms vary in individuals.
- Confusion of mind
- Anxiety, stress, and insecurity
- Loss of memory
- Skin problems
- Erectile dysfunctions
- Loss of sense of smell
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Urine frequency and urgency
- Excessive salivation
- Hallucination and delusions
These are some of the known early and late symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Though it is a serious and progressive condition, Parkinson’s disease is not considered fatal. With good treatment, patients can lead a long and productive life.
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