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Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Shakes or tremors
- Usually occurs at rest, may disappear while you are purposely moving
- Usually absent during sleep
- May worsen when you’re under emotional stress
- May take the form of “pill rolling” (a rubbing movement of the index finger and thumb)
- Tremors tend to start in a single finger on one hand, but may progress to the entire arm, head, lips, feet
Slowed movements (bradykinesia)
- Walking and other movement becomes very slow
- You may begin to shuffle when walking
- Your steps become shorter and shorter
Muscle stiffness or rigidity
- If someone takes your arm and tries to move it, it will seem as if you are purposely tightening up your muscles and resisting, although this is happening completely involuntarily.
- Your handwriting may become very small and cramped, as it becomes more difficult to initiate movement.
- You’ll lose the ability to participate in automatic movement, such as blinking and swinging your arms while walking.
- Because swallowing becomes increasingly difficult, you may begin to drool and have an increased risk of choking on food.
- Stiffened facial muscles may take on an expression called the “Parkinson’s face,” an unblinking, unsmiling, mask-like stare.
- You may have difficulty initiating movement and difficulty rising from a seated position.
Problems with speech
- Your voice may become softer.
- You may speak in a flat, monotone voice.
- You may begin to stutter.
Problems with balance and coordination
- You may start to walk in a very unsteady fashion.
- You have an increased risk of falling.
- Writing, dressing, and eating all become more difficult.
- Stooped, bent-over posture
- Difficulty sleeping
- Cramping, burning pain in the legs
- Restless leg syndrome (inability to stop moving the legs at night, resulting in extreme difficulty sleeping)
- Personality changes
- Sexual problems
- Loss of bladder control
- Loss of the sense of smell
- Decreased eye blinking
- Changes in body temperature
- Heavy sweating
- Memory problems
- Constipation due to slowing of the intestinal muscles that aid digestion
- Sudden, large drops in blood pressure upon first standing up, which can result in fainting or falling
- Seborrhea (which causes the skin to look oily)
- Nocturia, increased urine frequency and urgency
- Freezing in advanced stages
- Stooped posture
American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/ .
Conn HF, Rakel RE. Conn’s Current Therapy 2002. 54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002.
Fox M. Lucky Man: A Memoir. New York, NY: Hyperion; 2002.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/ .
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website. Available at: http://www.pdf.org .
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013
- Update Date: 09/30/2013