Parkinson’s disease, a progressive brain disorder that develops gradually and affects motor skills, is most common in older adults. In fact, age is the biggest risk factor for developing Parkinson’s disease (PD), with 1% of the population aged 50-65 suffering from PD in the U.S. Studies also show that, for reasons unknown, men are 50 percent more susceptible to PD than women.
While celebrities with this incurable disease like Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali have helped bring Parkinson’s disease to the attention of the public, many people still don’t recognize the subtle onset symptoms that, if treated early, can lead to a person’s longer and healthier life. Even so, diagnosing Parkinson’s is a difficult task for doctors, as there is no blood or laboratory test to confirm if a person has the condition. Rather, a doctor must evaluate a patient’s symptoms and administer tests to rule out any other possible diseases.
Below is a list of the early warning signs of PD, via the National Parkinson Foundation. Note that if a person has only one of the symptoms, PD is likely not the cause. If more than one symptom is present, however, it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor.
- Tremors or Shaking: While shaking can be normal after exercise, or a side effect of medication, twitching or shaking of the limbs is a common early sign of PD.
- Small Handwriting: It’s not uncommon for a person’s handwriting to gradually change over time. However, there’s cause for concern if a senior suddenly begins writing much smaller than he or she did in the past.
- Loss of Smell: Consult a doctor if a person has long-term trouble smelling pungent foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice.
- Trouble Sleeping: Thrashing, kicking and other sudden movements during sleep may indicate the onset of PD.
- Trouble Moving or Walking: Stiffness in the body, arms or legs that wasn’t caused by injury and doesn’t go away when a person moves should raise concern.
- Constipation: A person beginning to strain to move his or her bowels can be an early sign of Parkinsons disease.
- A Soft or Low Voice: Consult a doctor if a senior has a sudden change in his or her voice.
- Masked Face: If your aging mother has a serious, depressed or mad look on her face even though is not in bad mood, it may indicate the onset of PD. Also make note of unusually blank stares.
- Dizziness or Fainting: Feeling faint or dizzy when standing can be a sign of low blood pressure, which in some cases is linked to Parkinson’s disease.
- Stooping or Hunching Over: When a senior begins to stoop, lean or slouch when they used to stand, it could be a sign of PD.
As we mentioned above, early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease gives a person the best chance of living longer and healthier. While sadly there is no cure for PD, medications can markedly improve a patient’s symptoms.
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