Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

May 24, 2016

Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

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Parkinson’s disease is caused by the progressive deterioration of nerve cells in the brain. This disease typically affects middle-aged people and the elderly. Scientifically speaking, Parkinson’s disease is associated with the degeneration of the basal ganglia of the brain and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine. More than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year.

The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, although there are clues that could put pieces of the puzzle together. Symptoms of Parkinson’s can often go unnoticed, but when they occur, they often begin on one side of the body before eventually affecting both sides. Some of the early warning signs of Parkinson's disease include:

  1. Shaking and tremors
  2. Small handwriting
  3. Loss of smell
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Difficulty walking or moving
  6. Constipation
  7. A soft or low voice
  8. “Masked” face
  9. Dizziness
  10. Stooping, or hunched posture

Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease


This usually begins in the fingers or hands, making its way to other limbs. There may be rubbing between your thumb and forefinger in a “pill-rolling” motion as well.

Slowed movement

Over time, even simple motions can become difficult and time-consuming. There may be times when feet drag when walking.

Rigid muscles

Any muscle in the body can become stiff, which can limit the range of motion and cause pain and discomfort.

Impaired balance and posture

You may have trouble balancing, and there may also be a stoop in posture.

Loss of automatic movements

Those with Parkinson’s may lose the ability to perform unconscious movements, such as blinking, smiling, or swinging arms when walking.

Speech changes

You may notice that speech is soft or slurred. There may even be times when there is hesitation before speaking, and the overall tone of speech may be monotone.

Writing changes

It may become more difficult to write, and your handwriting may even become significantly smaller. 

Are You at Risk?

While the causes of Parkinson's disease are not known, there are some risk factors that have been associated with the development of the disease.


People typically notice symptoms of Parkinson’s disease around age 60, although symptoms can begin earlier. The older someone gets the chance of developing Parkinson’s increases.


If a close family relative has Parkinson’s disease, the chances of developing the disease increase. The more family members with Parkinson’s, the greater the risk will be, just like the fewer relatives with Parkinson’s, the lesser the risk is of developing the disease.


Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women.

Exposure to toxins

Ongoing exposure to chemicals may put you at a slightly greater risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Preparing for a Doctor Visit

  1. Write down any symptoms of Parkinson’s you’re experiencing
    1. When did symptoms begin?
    2. Do symptoms come and go?
    3. Does anything improve symptoms
    4. What makes symptoms worse?
  2. List all current medications
  3. Brainstorm questions for your doctor
  4. Ask a family member or friend to come along

Since the cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, there are no definite measures to prevent the disease, although studies do suggest that caffeine found in tea and coffee may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does a doctor know that someone has Parkinson's disease?

If you find that you are suffering from the signs or symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, you will need to visit a neurologist. There are not currently any specific tests to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, but there are ways that your doctor will determine if you have the disease or not.

They will thoroughly examine your medical history and perform a neurological exam to assess your motor functionality and balance. They will use a blood test to rule out other conditions or diseases that could be causing your symptoms. Neurologists can use various imaging test to differentiate between PD and other disorders with similar symptoms. Then, they will enter all of your test results into the United Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. This tool will help them determine if you have the disease and help monitor the progression of your symptoms.

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My father has just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease but he won't accept it. Why won't he accept that he has this disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disorder that is going to greatly affect your father for the rest of his life. When someone finds out they have a chronic condition like this, their shock can quickly turn into denial of the disease.

You can help your loved one overcome Parkinson’s disease denial by being supportive. Help them learn everything they can about their condition. Help make sure they are taking medications and following their treatment plan. Try and schedule some time for your father’s physician to sit with them and go over all of their concerns.

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