Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms: 7 Early Warning Signs

What are the early signs of Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological movement disorder that, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), affects approximately 500,000 people in the United States.

Some early symptoms include:

  • cramped handwriting or other writing changes
  • tremor, especially in finger, hand or foot
  • uncontrollable movements during sleep
  • limb stiffness or slow movement (bradykinesia)
  • voice changes
  • rigid facial expression or masking
  • stooped posture

PD starts with the brain cells, called neurons, which control movement. Neurons produce a substance called dopamine. PD sets in when the neurons die and the levels of dopamine in the brain decrease. The lack of dopamine is thought to result in the symptoms that affect the way you move.

Early signs of Parkinson’s disease can be easy to miss, especially if they occur sporadically. It may be time to see a doctor if you are noticing symptoms that keep appearing.

1. Small handwriting

A sudden change in the size of your handwriting may be an early indicator of Parkinson’s disease. People with PD have a hard time controlling movement because of the changes in the brain. This can make fine motor skills like writing more difficult.

Micrographia is the medical term for “small handwriting.” Parkinson’s patients often have handwriting that looks cramped. Individual letters tend to be smaller than normal, and words are spaced closely. A person with PD may begin writing a letter in their regular handwriting but gradually start writing in smaller font.

2. Tremor

Tremor is perhaps the most recognizable sign of Parkinson’s disease. A slight twitching or shaking of a finger, hand, or foot is common. The person experiencing the tremor is likely to be the only person who notices them in early stages of PD.

The shaking will worsen and become noticeable to others, however, as the condition progresses. The tremor is usually most noticeable at rest.

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