Candace McCarty | Dec 28, 2022
When it comes to diagnosis, Parkinson's disease has no definite process. Even with today's medical advancements, there isn't a blood or laboratory test capable of diagnosing an individual. Instead, doctors assess two things: a person's medical history and their neurological signs and symptoms.
Because symptoms are one of the best ways to recognize the onset of Parkinson's disease, understanding the early signs of the disease can help you or your loved one gain access to the care that is required and deserved.
In order to help people reach an appropriate diagnosis and receive suitable Parkinson's care, the National Parkinson Foundation shared some of the most common early warning signs of Parkinson's disease. Paying attention to the following signs could help prompt you to talk with a healthcare professional about the possibility of your having Parkinson's disease.
With Parkinson's, tremors will often occur in one's hands, face, or limbs. While subtle twitching and shaking are prominent in many individuals with Parkinson's, shaking can also occur as a result of injury, exercise, or medication, so make sure to consult your healthcare provider.
If your handwriting suddenly changes (more specifically, if your handwriting becomes smaller and your letters become closer together), it could be an early sign of Parkinson's disease. While it's perfectly normal for someone's handwriting to change throughout life, be on the lookout for sudden changes in your penmanship.
If you have not been ill recently and are experiencing a sudden loss of smell, it could be an early symptom associated with Parkinson's. Assess your ability to smell fragrant foods like bananas, dill pickles, and licorice. If these scents no longer register, your sense of smell may be degenerating as a result of the disease.
When you're unable to get restful sleep, it's usually a sign of some greater problem. When it comes to diagnosing Parkinson's disease, a doctor will look for thrashing, kicking, and other sudden movements during the sleep cycle. Don't be alarmed if you experience a night or two of tossing and turning — but if these occurrences become consistent, you may want to speak with your doctor.
Stiffness throughout the body and its extremities that will not go away with movement can be a sign of Parkinson's disease. This stiffness can present itself through pain in the shoulder or hips and may prevent you from specific movements (including swinging your arms when you walk). Parkinson's can also cause leaning and slouching while standing, making it easily confused for osteoporosis. It's important to remember that stiffness and hunching over can also occur as a result of an existing injury or arthritis. If you have concerns, always start by talking to your doctor.
Bradykinesia, or slow movement, can also be an early sign of Parkinson's. This may include difficulty with fine motor coordination, including eating with utensils, tying a knot, and turning over while in bed.
A common sign of Parkinson's is frequent constipation. This is one of the earliest signs of Parkinson's and often occurs before motor-related symptoms. While constipation has a lot of causes, keeping an eye on your motor functions when you have persistent constipation is one way to keep an eye out for other Parkinson's symptoms.
Because many Parkinson's symptoms directly impact a person's movements, weight loss is common, especially as tremors become more frequent and require additional energy. A loss in appetite in addition to these symptoms can also be an early indicator of Parkinson's.
Some individuals with a Parkinson's diagnosis sound monotone, may stutter, or rush their words together while speaking. If friends or family are starting to have trouble understanding you (or are having trouble hearing you when you speak), it could be an early sign of Parkinson's.
Also referred to as hypomimia, facial masking includes reduced blinking, lack of emotions shown on the face, parted lips, and slow emotional facial responses. Typically, facial masking starts slow and progresses with the disease.
Parkinson's creates postural instability that often leads to falling backward (even in response to a small push or light pressure). While many people lose balance as they age, a sudden increase in falls could be a sign to talk to your doctor about Parkinson's.
The early signs of Parkinson's disease can be few and far between, and it can be especially difficult to notice symptoms if they occur sporadically. If you or your loved one experience more than one of the symptoms on this list, it might be time to see a doctor. Since no definitive test for diagnosis exists, the majority of doctors approach diagnosis through a "process of elimination."
Your doctor will most likely test for diseases that can be clinically proven in an effort to rule out Parkinson's disease. But if you have concerns that you may have Parkinson's, it is important to pursue a diagnosis so that you can begin receiving appropriate care if needed.
A Parkinson's diagnosis is not the end of the road. Today, Walker Methodist provides care for seniors across Minnesota who continue to love dignified, complete lives in our communities.
We have several communities at Walker Methodist that are Struthers Parkinson's Care Network partners, including:
Regardless of the specific care you or your loved one require, there is a Walker Methodist community that can meet your needs and provide you with opportunities to enjoy life to the fullest.