11 early signs of Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is often difficult to diagnose and the early signs are missed. Early detection would help in initiating treatment and leading a healthier life. Below is a list of symptoms that happen during the initial stage of Parkinson’s. Having just one symptom as listed below doesn’t call for immediate concern. However if you have two or more of the following symptoms, it would be advisable to take an appointment with a neurologist.

Small crowded handwriting

A change in the size of your handwriting may be an early indicator of Parkinson’s. This is mostly noticed in the form of a change in signature. A distinctive change in the handwriting occurs progressively, moving across the page, letters get smaller and less legible.

Often in Parkinson’s, skills that require fine motor control like writing, buttoning up a shirt, pleating a saree, counting money are affected early during the course of the disease.

Loss of smell/Anosmia

Do you recall of any instances when you couldn’t smell a particular dish or a perfume? Have you felt that you don’t enjoy food as much as before because you can’t taste it that well? Loss of smell, & consequently taste is one of the earliest and least noticed symptoms of Parkinson’s. And because the sensation of taste is linked to smell, most people also tend to experience a loss of appetite.

Facial Masking

Has anybody told you that you have a serious expression on your face all the time? Have your family members told you that you don’t blink regularly? Parkinson’s often affects the muscles of the face and produces a mask like appearance.

Stooped posture

Has your posture changed from an erect to a more bent posture? A stooped posture is often an early indicator of Parkinson’s. Although back pain and injuries can often produce a similar change in posture, it tends to be temporary and gets resolved with treatment.

Slowed and stiff movements

Have you noticed that your daily activities like bathing, dressing, eating etc have become slower than usual? Do you feel that your arms and legs have become heavy or stiff? Parkinson’s often manifests with slowed and stiff movements in the early stages.

Tremor

Have you noticed a slight shaking of your hand, finger or lip? Or does your leg shake when you stand up from a chair? The tremors in Parkinson’s occur usually when relaxed, usually starting in body part (eg finger, toe). This is often the first symptom that Parkinson’s begins with. It is important to note that tremors are seen in only 30% of the cases of Parkinson’s and is not mandatory for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

Frozen Shoulder

Do you have stiffness or slowness of movement in the shoulder. Have you been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder? Often Parkinson’s disease presents as slowness of movements and stiffness causing impaired movements. In many instances the restriction or slowness of movement can present as a frozen shoulder causing the diagnosis to be missed or delayed.

Change in voice

Have you noticed a change in your speech. Do people often ask you to speak louder or repeat what you are saying? A change in speech with low volume can be seen in Parkinson’s though usually it is not the first symptom.

Sleep disturbances

Do you tend to fall asleep in the daytime despite having a full night’s sleep? Have your family members told you that you’ve been kicking your legs / throwing your arms up in the air while in bed on a regular basis? Falling off the bed is even more serious and may indicate an underlying sleep disorder that is associated with Parkinson’s called REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).

Change in bowel habits

Have you noticed a sudden change in bowel habits from before? Do you feel constipated for long periods of time? Constipation often affects those with Parkinson’s disease. It occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent.

Excessive sweating

Have you noticed that you sweat more than normal despite no obvious reasons like a hot environment or anxiety? The autonomic nervous system which is affected in Parkinson’s loses its ability to regulate body functions like sweating, glandular function etc. In addition to this Parkinson’s may also cause oily skin and dandruff.