What are the Cardinal Signs of Parkinson’s Disease?

What are the Cardinal Signs of Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease affecting the motor abilities of a patient. The cardinal signs of Parkinson’s disease are normally related to the motor functions which may be voluntary or involuntary in nature. Such symptoms usually start on the one side of the body which are initially mild, and progresses over the period of time. The cardinal signs include-

Tremors: Tremors originating in fingers, hands, feet, arms, jaw, legs or head. Such tremors are seen to occur most often while the patient is resting. These tremors may worsen when the patient gets excited, stressed, or tired.

Rigidity in Limbs: A pattern of stiffness or rigidity is seen in the limbs and trunk, which may increase in case of movement. Such rigidity may produce muscle aches and pain.

Loss of Fine Motor Skills: Loss of fine motor skills may lead to cramped handwriting which may be difficult to read. Such condition is called micrographia. Patient may also find it difficult to eat.

Loss of Movement: Progressive slowness of voluntary movement which may result in difficulty to initiate movement and to even complete a movement gradually.

Loss of Reflexes: Impairment or loss of reflexes to adjust the posture and maintain balance is also cardinal signs of Parkinson’s disease.

Gait: Patients of Parkinson’s disease are seen to develop a distinctive form of walking characterized by shuffling and stooping with diminished or absent arm swing. This type of walking is called Parkinsonian gait. Individuals may freeze and appear to fall forward while walking.

What are the Non-Motor Signs Associated With Parkinson’s Disease?

As it is known that Parkinson’s disease affects the motor abilities of a patient, it should be remembered that it also comes with various non-motor signs which are quite disturbing for the patient. They include-

  • Mood disorders with feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Feeling of tiredness.
  • Difficulties in planning and decision making.
  • Inability to swallow food and difficulty with speech.
  • Dementia.
  • Constipation.
  • Vision problems.

It is important to know that non-motor signs may require additional treatment for few people as they too advance along with the motor symptoms.

What are the Risk Factors of Developing Dementia After Parkinson’s Disease?

Certain patients with Parkinson’s disease are at higher risk of developing dementia than others. Some of the vital risk factors for developing dementia after Parkinson’s disease may include older age, severity of symptoms and presence of mild cognitive impairment. Other additional symptoms which act as risk factor for developing into full fledged dementia include-

  • Excessive sleepiness in the daytime.
  • Presence of hallucination in the absence of other dementia related symptoms.
  • Presence of postural instability and gait which include freezing that occurs suddenly, difficulty in initiating movement and problems with balancing and frequent falling.

How is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?

There are no particularly specific tests that confirm the presence of Parkinson’s disease. Once the patience comes with the symptoms, the doctor usually takes the physical history of the patient. His way of walking and level of cognition is assessed. The doctor then may ask the patient to go for certain tests like-

Blood Test- The blood test is usually done in order to rule out any other condition responsible for the symptoms of motor instability. Such conditions may include liver damage or abnormal thyroid level.

MRI and CT Scans- The patient may be asked to go for a CT or MRI scans to diagnose the presence of brain tumor or stroke. The MRI or CT scan results with Parkinson’s disease are usually normal.

Pet Scan- PET scan may help in the detection of low levels of dopamine in the brain at times. PET scans are highly specialized imaging technique which uses substances which are radioactive in nature to create three dimensional images of the substances in the body.

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