The Common Symptoms That Might Be Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s can affect anyone, especially in later years. Males are more likely to get the disease, but it’s important for males and females both to know the symptoms to watch for as they age. Below are common symptoms that could be Parkinson’s disease. Plus, check out page 13 to see the actual chances of being diagnosed.

You’ve noticed a change in your handwriting

Man writing | iStock.com

Handwriting is almost a form of identity. People can distinguish one person from another based on the way they form their letters. But if you get older and notice your handwriting is different than it used to be or is getting worse, it could be a sign of Parkinson’s. With Parkinson’s, your words typically get more crowded.

Next: Sleep habits can also be a sign. 

You toss and turn at night

Woman in bed | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

A change in sleeping habits can also be a sign you may have Parkinson’s. If you were once a peaceful sleeper but now toss and turn at night, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Although trouble sleeping can be a sign of many other things, Parkinson’s isn’t something you want to overlook. It’s believed the disease affects the regions of the brain that control sleep habits, leading to tossing and turning.

Next: If this changes, it could be a sign of something serious. 

Your mood isn’t the same

Man who is feeling sad | Highwaystarz-Photography/Getty Images

Parkinson’s is attributed to a lack of dopamine in the brain. Low levels of things like dopamine and serotonin are linked to depression. Sometimes, people become depressed after their diagnosis. But in other cases, the depression can begin years before any additional symptoms show up.

Next: You might notice this while cooking. 

You can’t smell as well as you used to

Woman smelling something bad | SIphotography/Getty Images

A loss of smell is one of the most overlooked symptoms of Parkinson’s. And patients have reported it’s one of the first symptoms they notice. The connection between Parkinson’s and smell is not perfectly clear. Some experts think the area of the brain that controls smell is one of the first areas affected by the disease.

Next: If your feet feel heavier than usual, see a doctor. 

Automatic movements have stopped

Woman feeling stiff | Maroke/iStock/Getty Images

When you walk, you naturally swing your arms. But with Parkinson’s, sometimes those “automatic” movements can stop. It usually is in direct relation to muscle stiffness. Picking up your legs when you walk is also a sign that something is wrong with your muscles. If you have a constant feeling of stiffness, it could be Parkinson’s.

Next: You might not notice this, but those around you will. 

You’re moving a bit slower than you used to

Woman at the doctor’s office | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Since muscle stiffness often accompanies Parkinson’s, it results in slower overall movement. If your arms aren’t swinging, and it’s difficult to pick your feet up off the floor, you may start moving slower. Those around you may notice you look stiff and ask if something is wrong. It’s best to see your doctor if you notice your movements are different than they used to be.

Next: If your posture is off, it affects this. 

Your posture is worse and balance suffers

Man walking with a walker | CreativaImages/Getty Images

Parkinson’s can affect the reflexes that are responsible for proper posture when standing. As a result, those with Parkinson’s often lose their balance while standing or easily fall backward if pushed in any way. If you find any instability while standing, it could be a sign of the disease. Muscle stiffness can also affect posture.

Next: Do you find that others can’t hear what you said? 

Your voice has gotten softer

Woman talking into her phone | AH86/Getty Images

Parkinson’s is often accompanied by speech issues. Those with Parkinson’s may notice that their speech has gotten softer or that others have difficulty hearing them even if they think they’re speaking normally. Forming words properly can also become a problem. And tone can become more monotonous. Any sign of a change in speech could signal a serious underlying medical problem, even if it isn’t Parkinson’s, so it’s important to see a doctor.

Next: Trouble in this area is a symptom often overlooked. 

You’ve been feeling constipated

Woman with stomach problems | Sasha_Suzi/iStock/Getty Images

Since Parkinson’s affects the body’s autonomic nervous system, constipation can be a sign of the disease. The autonomic nervous system controls digestion, which affects bowel movements. Constipation can be a sign of many other things, too. But if you’re experiencing constipation along with other symptoms on this list, it may be Parkinson’s.

Next: This is the easiest sign to spot. 

You’ve noticed tremors in your hands

Two people holding hands | Ocskaymark/Getty Images

This may be the biggest sign of Parkinson’s. Tremors can happen to anyone at any age, and they don’t necessarily signal the disease. But if you notice tremors that never used to be present, it’s a strong sign something could be wrong. Tremors after exercise or when you’re feeling anxious are normal, but tremors in a relaxed state, along with other Parkinson’s symptoms, may be a reason for concern.

Next: Here’s when you should see a doctor. 

Always see a doctor if you notice any abnormalities in your health

Woman visiting the doctor | Nensuria/iStock/Getty Images

If you notice a change in your motor skills, movement, or mood, it’s important to see a doctor. The brain has everything to do with this, so regardless of whether it’s Parkinson’s, it is always best to get checked out if something seems wrong. If more than one symptom is apparent, definitely consult your doctor. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Next: What age is Parkinson’s diagnosed? 

Parkinson’s is typically diagnosed in late middle-age

Man talking to a doctor | Seb_ra/iStock/Getty Images

The most common age for diagnosis is around 60. But while 60 is the typical diagnosis age, everyone is different. Some people have symptoms as early as 40 — and sometimes even younger. Everyone’s case is different, so if you notice any symptoms, see a doctor no matter what.

Next: Here are your chances of being diagnosed. 

You have about a 1 in 100 chance of being diagnosed

Doctor looking at x-rays | sudok1/Getty Images

About 1 in 100 people over the age of 60 are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Research has indicated there are about one million people living with Parkinson’s in the United States. The disease is extremely rare for those younger than 60. But there are other diseases that express similar symptoms to Parkinson’s, so the disease can sometimes be misdiagnosed.

Next: Here’s what causes Parkinson’s. 

Parkinson’s is caused by low dopamine levels

Woman in a lab | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Parkinson’s can go hand-in-hand with depression because it is caused by low dopamine levels. It is a progressive nervous system disorder. The nerve cells that generate dopamine die, causing the overall dopamine level to fall drastically, which leads to the symptoms of the disease. Since dopamine is responsible for sending signals to the part of the brain that controls movement, tremors, muscle stiffness, and more are used to diagnose the disease.

Next: What is the life expectancy for someone with Parkinson’s? 

With proper treatment, life expectancy looks very good

Doctors looking at x-rays | Win McNamee/Getty Images

If those with Parkinson’s receive proper treatment, their life expectancy is similar to those without the disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the treatment options. But one thing to note is that falls become extremely risky during later stages of the disease. Bones are more fragile, and falls are more common due to balance issues. According to Healthline, falls can lead to an earlier death because of injury complications.

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