The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from person to person. At the beginning the symptoms are mild and often go unnoticed. The most typical signs of Parkinson’s are what is called the ‘motor symptoms’. These are mainly shaking, slowness of movement and muscle stiffness.
The shaking, also called tremor, often starts in one hand and is more apparent when you are resting it.
The slowing down of the movements, called bradykinesia, makes it more difficult to do usual things like tying your shoes, handling change, writing or playing a musical instrument. Having muscle stiffness means that you cannot stretch as far and movements can become painful.
Other common symptoms are poor balance and impaired posture, with a tendency to lean forward. Another thing that can be observed in a person affected by Parkinson’s is that they are less able to make unconscious movements such as blinking their eyes, swinging their arms as they walk, or smiling. It also becomes more difficult to speak and write. People with Parkinson’s tend to speak more softly, faster, slur their words or hesitate before talking. Their writing tends to become smaller.
Some of the movement problems seen in people with Parkinson’s can be caused by the very same medication that is used to help the disease, that is, levodopa. These are jerky movements that tend to appear after a few years of taking levodopa, which means that the medication will need to be carefully adjusted by a healthcare professional in order to make sure that you are not too stiff and you can move well enough without having too many jerky unwanted movements.
Apart from the typical ‘motor symptoms’ there is a set of symptoms called the ‘non-motor symptoms’. These include depression and sleep problems, tiredness, poor concentration and bad memory, seeing things that are not there (visual hallucinations) or having abnormal thoughts (feeling paranoid or believing things that other people find strange and without basis). Parkinson’s can also affect other bodily functions that are beyond our control such as our blood pressure, how fast our bowels move or our sexual drive.