It’s not always obvious when a friend or loved one has Parkinson’s disease, particularly in its early stages. But early diagnosis and intervention can be key to a patient’s quality of life with the disease. Below are 10 signs to watch out for, that may be indicators of Parkinson’s. No single one should cause worry, but if you or someone you know experiences multiple signs—please contact a doctor for further examination.


1. Tremor

Do you experience shaking while at rest? Symptoms tend to first appear in the finger, thumb, hand or chin.

Keep in mind
Some shaking after strenuous exercise is common, especially if you are taking medication or your body has been otherwise stressed.


2. Handwriting

If your handwriting has become smaller and more tightly concentrated, you may be experiencing a Parkinson’s symptom called micrographia.

Keep in mind
Changes in writing can also be caused by stiffness in fingers, or poor vision—two common factors correlated with age.


3. Sleep

Sudden movements during deep sleep—especially if severe enough to make your partner want to move to the couch—could be a sign of Parkinson’s.

Keep in mind
Sleep disturbances can be caused by many other factors—including caffeine or alcohol consumption, stress or anxiety, and even hearing problems—and are fairly common during lighter sleep.


4. Face

Have you received comments on a serious or depressed look on your face, even when you feel fine? It may be a Parkinson’s symptom called facial masking.

Keep in mind
Certain medications have been known to cause similar symptoms—but would reverse their effects if the doses are halted.


5. General movement

If you notice a stiffness in your body, arms or legs—or that your arms don’t swing as they once did when you walk, as if stuck to the floor—this could be an early sign of Parkinson’s.

Keep in mind
An injury to the arm or shoulder may render it unusable until healed. Other illnesses, such as arthritis may also cause similar symptoms.


6. Sense of smell

Has your sense of smell diminished? Parkinson’s patients have noted trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles, and licorice.

Keep in mind
Smell can also be affected by other factors—such as a cold, flu, or stuffy nose—but should return to normal once you’re better.


7. Voice

Is your voice particularly soft or hoarse? If you’ve experienced a noticeable change in your voice, consider asking your doctor about Parkinson’s. Patients have reported thinking others are losing their hearing when, in fact, they were speaking more quietly.

Keep in mind
A virus—such as a chest cold—can also temporarily cause hoarseness in your voice.


8. Gut health

Have you noticed difficulty moving your bowels daily, without strain? This could be an early sign of Parkinson’s, and should be reported to your doctor.

Keep in mind
There are many possible culprits to consider with bowl issues—among them, lack of water or fiber, or certain medications.


9. Consciousness

If you find yourself dizzy after standing up from a chair—or if it causes you to faint—this may be a symptom of Parkinson’s, and reason to contact your doctor.

Keep in mind
Everyone has had an experience of standing up too fast and feeling dizzy, but a doctor should be consulted if this happens on a regular basis.


10. Posture

If you have difficulty standing up as straight as you used to—or if family and friends notice you stooping, leaning, or slouching when you stand—it may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

Keep in mind
Pain from an injury, bone issues, or sickness can also be cause to slouch. If the issue does not resolve itself after a sickness or injury heals, consult your doctor.


What to do if you notice signs

Contact your doctor to help determine next steps. This may include:
• A referral to a neurologist
• Occupational, speech, or physical therapy
• Initiating an exercise regimen
• A meeting with a social worker
• Reaching out to family for support


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