Parkinson's disease symptoms and signs may vary from person to person. Early signs may be mild and may go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.
Parkinson's signs and symptoms may include:
- Tremor. Your tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may notice a back-and-forth rubbing of your thumb and forefinger known as a pill-rolling tremor. One characteristic of Parkinson's disease is a tremor of your hand when it is relaxed (at rest).
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson's disease may reduce your ability to move and slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk, or you may find it difficult to get out of a chair. Also, you may drag your feet as you try to walk, making it difficult to move.
- Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can limit your range of motion and cause you pain.
- Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson's disease.
- Loss of automatic movements. In Parkinson's disease, you may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk. You may no longer gesture when talking.
- Speech changes. You may have speech problems as a result of Parkinson's disease. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections. A speech-language pathologist may help improve your speech problems.
- Writing changes. Writing may appear small and become difficult.
Medications may greatly reduce many of these symptoms. These medications increase or substitute for dopamine, a specific signaling chemical (neurotransmitter) in your brain. People with Parkinson's disease have low brain dopamine concentrations.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease — not only to diagnose your condition but also to rule out other causes for your symptoms.
May 28, 2014
- Parkinson's disease: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/parkinsons_disease/parkinsons_disease.htm. Accessed Aug. 8, 2013.
- Chou KL. Clinical manifestations of Parkinson disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 8, 2013.
- Jankovic J. Etiology and pathogenesis of Parkinson disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 8, 2013.
- Chou KL. Diagnosis of Parkinson disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 8, 2013.
- Tarsy D. Pharmacologic treatment of Parkinson disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 8, 2013.
- Tarsy D. Surgical treatment of Parkinson disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 8, 2013.
- Tarsy D. Nonpharmacologic management of Parkinson disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home/. Accessed Aug. 8, 2013.
- Ahlskog JE. Does vigorous exercise have a neuroprotective effect in Parkinson disease? Neurology. 2011;77:288.
- Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com/. Accessed Aug. 12, 2013.
- Parkinson's disease: Fitness counts. National Parkinson Foundation. http://www.parkinson.org/Search-Pages/Search.aspx?pKeywords=fitness. Accessed Aug. 12, 2013.
- Mischley LY, et al. Coenzyme Q10 deficiency in patients with Parkinson's disease. Journal of the Neurological Sciences. 2012;318:72.
- Li F., et al. Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson's disease. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2012;366:511.
- Complementary therapies and Parkinson's. Parkinson's Disease Society of the United Kingdom. http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/content/complementary-therapies-and-parkinsons-booklet. Accessed Aug. 12, 2013.
- Riggin EA. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 13, 2013.
- Saliva gland test for Parkinson's shows promise, study finds. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/news2013-sct/7249.html. Accessed Aug. 15, 2013.
- Ahlskog JE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 5, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.