What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
Each year, about 60,000 people will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder that most often occurs after age 50. (Although it can happen at younger ages, as it did with actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed at age 29.)
This neurodegenerative disease can start with small signs, and then get progressively worse, eventually causing trouble with movement, rigidity, stiffness, and other symptoms. One of the most well-known signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremors or shaking.
About 70 percent of people with the disease experience a resting tremor, and it can become more noticeable during stress or excitement, according to the National Parkinson’s Foundation. A resting tremor occurs even when a person isn’t moving; it might be a slight shake in your finger, thumb, hand, chin, lip, or lips when your body is at rest and your muscles are relaxed. (However, tremors can have many causes, and not all tremors are indicative of Parkinson’s disease.)
These tremors are the most common symptom and often tip people off to the disease, but when Parkinson’s patients think back they sometimes realize they experienced other symptoms of the disease before the tremors began. Here are the ones you should know. (Don’t miss these other diseases your hands might predict.)
If your handwriting starts to go from big and loopy to small and cramped, this could be one of the earliest Parkinson’s disease symptoms. “Teachers with Parkinson’s will notice students complaining that they can’t read their handwriting when they write on the blackboard,” says Deborah Hall, MD, a neurologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Look for letters getting smaller and words crowding together. Many people have slower movement and trouble with repetitive tasks, like handwriting. (There’s a wrist gadget that could stop Parkinson’s tremors.)