Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder that progresses slowly with time. Symptoms normally begin on one side of the body and usually spread to the other side as Parkinson’s progresses. It is difficult to estimate the rate of progression as every individual with Parkinson’s may experience different symptoms. Symptoms present in the earlier stages of the condition may worsen and new symptoms may appear during the course of Parkinson’s.
Medications help in managing the symptoms but unfortunately, aren’t implicated for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s. Throughout the course of the condition, it is important to be aware of how your symptoms are changing. It is imperative to visit your doctor regularly as your medications need to be adjusted as Parkinson’s progresses.
During the initial stages of Parkinson’s, the symptoms may be mild and interfere with fine motor activities like buttoning a shirt, tying shoe laces, a change in handwriting and slowed movement. Tremor if present may appear on one side of the body, starting either with the finger/hand or toe/foot. A person continues to remain independent in these stages and can lead a near normal life with medications and supportive therapies.
As Parkinson’s progresses, the symptoms that appeared earlier tend to become more pronounced and problems with balance and change in posture become evident. After years of Parkinson’s, a PwP tends to walk with a stooped posture with short steps.
Additionally, after several years of Parkinson’s the effect of medication may fluctuate suddenly. For more information visit our section on Wearing offs in Parkinson’s
Dementia may also develop in 30% of the patients with Parkinson’s. It may not happen to everyone and may develop 10-15 years after the onset of Parkinson’s. The major signs of dementia in Parkinson’s include memory problems, distractibility, reduced attention span, slowed thinking and reduced motivation. People who experience hallucinations (click here for Hallucinations in Parkinson’s) are at an increased risk for developing dementia.
After several years of Parkinson’s, the stiffness, tremor etc may increase to such an extent that necessitating help from a caregiver. Difficulties with swallowing may arise. Advanced Parkinson’s may eventually confine a PwP to a bed or wheelchair.
For strategies on coping with Parkinson’s read our section on Living with Parkinson’s
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