Do you have early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Do you have early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Muhammad Ali, boxing legend and humanitarian, recently passed away at 74 years old. While it’s been reported he died in the hospital undergoing treatment for respiratory complications, Ali fought Parkinson’s disease for the last three decades of his life.

After Ali’s diagnosis at 42 years old, he became an advocate and a face for the neurological disorder that affects the movements of the body. While he certainly raised the profile of Parkinson’s disease, it is still a condition that people know little about until they or a loved one receive a diagnosis.

“Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition where symptoms, such as shaking, stiffness, slowness or balance impairment, often start out mild and gradually become more intense and bothersome,” says Dr. Sachin Kapur, a neurologist and medical director of the Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders program at Advocate Christ Medical Center’s Neurosciences Institute in Oak Lawn, Ill.

Early signs of Parkinson’s disease are difficult to pinpoint as they are often confused for normal effects of aging, but Dr. Kapur provides the following symptoms that typically precede a diagnosis and should not be ignored:

  • Tremor – This is the most well-known symptom of Parkinson’s. Mild shaking or tremor in the fingers, hands or feet occur at the early stages of the disease and gradually worsen over time. Parkinson’s disease may occasionally occur without tremor.
  • Change in handwriting – Fine motor skills become affected at the onset of Parkinson’s. Patients suddenly begin writing words smaller and closer together than they had done previously.
  • Stiff muscles – Parkinson’s makes muscles rigid and slow moving. This tightness causes a reduced range of motion, and people may notice that one arm swings less than the other when walking.
  • Blank facial expression – People with Parkinson’s disease may have a blank stare on their face and appear to be upset or angry. The patient can be engaging in a lively conversation but have a very serious look on their face without realizing it.
  • Soft voice – In early stages of Parkinson’s, people are often told they are speaking in a very low or muffled voice.
  • Disturbed sleep – Sudden, uncontrollable movements of the arms and legs during sleep is an early sign of Parkinson’s. Other sleep issues include difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Dr. Kapur strongly encourages everyone to make an appointment with a neurologist if they or a loved one begins exhibiting recurring symptoms. He says there’s no one predictor on how quickly a patient’s symptoms will worsen, but early detection and treatment can alleviate symptoms and potentially slow the disease’s progression.

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  1. sharon alberts June 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm · Reply

    I’m 73 yo. I’ve had several low back surgeries plus both knees and both shoulders replaced in last 2-3 years also. I’ve had all the above symptons for a couple of years. My legs are
    now weak and I can’t walk far due to burning back pain. I also have electric stimulation wires in my back which helps some and is on night and day. I wondered about parkinson’s even before I saw this email. I would appreciate yours opinion.

  2. Hi Sharon. Your back issues may be clouding things as chronic lumbar radiculopathy and spinal stenosis can cause leg weakness and sensory changes. If you also have tremor or asymmetric stiffness and slowness, then have your physician refer you to our center.

  3. I have had parkinsons since I was 21. I’m 67 now and it hasn’t really progress much. Of course I’ve stay active by working as a plumber for close to thirty years. I’m retired now for about the last7 years. I retired because of the pain caused from injuries I suffered in a job related cave in. I went back to work after the cave-in and worked a few years but the injury related pain got to the point where the jobs wasn’t any fun anymore. I was old enough for a pension so I just said the hell with it. Before becoming a plumber I was an amateur boxer. My ten fights I had Parkinson’s and the 6 pro fights also. I don’t think my Parkinson’s came from boxing as I noticed the symptoms after getting hit in the back of the head/neck with a rifle during a fight between two Army batteries. I’m sure the boxing I did after this incident didn’t help any but I don’t think boxing was the cause. I continue to exercise after retiring from boxing which I think is the reason my Parkinson has progress. I might me a helpful person to check out. I might be able to help other with this dease. Plumbing is a pretty physical job which I handled better then most I have worked with. James V. Thorpe 38 Reading Rd. Bloomington Illinois 1-309-8285998 Doctor Hermann Dick Bloomington

    • James my son has early onset Parkinson’s and I was just wondering what medication you took when you were first diagnosed. I’m so worried about my son as he is only 33 and is married with young children.

  4. In April last year, i started on natural parkinsons disease herbal treatments from RICH HERBS FOUNDATION, i am happy to report this PD herbal treatment worked very effectively. My parkinson is totally under control, i had a total decline in symptoms, the tremors, shaking, stiffness, congnition and speech problems stopped. Visit rich herbs foundation official web page ww w.richherbsfoundation .com. My family are amazed at the change and rapid improvement.

About the Author

Julie Nakis
Julie Nakis

Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.