This year’s theme for Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April is all about living well with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The first step to living well with Parkinson’s disease is to understand the disease and the progression.
It is possible to have a good to great quality of life with Parkinson’s Disease. Working with your doctor and following recommended therapies is essential for successfully treating symptoms. Early detection of any signs of the disease is also important for effective management.
What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.
It can be hard to tell if you or a loved one has Parkinson's disease.
Below are signs that you or a loved one might have the disease.
Have you noticed a slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand or chin? A tremor while at rest is a common early sign of Parkinson's disease.
Trouble moving or walking
Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Have others noticed that your arms don’t swing like they used to when you walk? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson's disease. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem “stuck to the floor.”
Stooping or hunching
Are you or a loved one not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson's disease (PD).
Face looks masked
Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face, even when you are not in a bad mood? This is often called facial masking and can be related to Parkinson's disease.
Suffering from constipation
Do you have trouble moving your bowels without straining every day? Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson's disease and you should talk to your doctor.
Has your handwriting gotten much smaller than it was in the past? You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, such as letter sizes are smaller, and the words are crowded together. A change in handwriting may be a sign of Parkinson's disease called micrographia.
Loss of Smell
Have you noticed you no longer smell certain foods very well? If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or liquorice, you should speak to your doctor.
Do you toss and turn a lot when you are deeply asleep? Has your partner noticed or said something about this? Sudden movements during sleep may be a sign of Parkinson's disease.
Have other people told you that your voice is very soft or that you sound hoarse? If there has been a change in your voice you should see your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson's disease. Sometimes you might think other people are losing their hearing, when really you are speaking more softly.
Dizziness or Fainting
Do you notice that you often feel dizzy when you stand up out of a chair? Feeling dizzy or fainting can be a sign of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson's disease (PD).
What can you do if you or a loved one have Parkinson’s Disease?
No single one of these signs means that you should worry, but if you or a loved one is exhibiting more than one sign you should consider making an appointment to talk to your doctor.
If you do have Parkinson’s disease, your doctor can work closely with you to create a plan to stay healthy. Don’t leave it too late, your GP and medical practice team is here to help.