For most people the most obvious physical symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease is the ‘shaky hands’ syndrome that is the most noticeable. However this is not the only Parkinson symptom that is there. Patients with Parkinson’s disease can display a wide variety of symptoms which continue to evolve as the patient progresses through various stages.
Broadly the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease can be segregated into the following categories:
Physical symptoms as the name suggest deal with the physical aspects of the body. These could be motor related (movement-related) or Non-motor related.
Freezing is like a feeling that the feet are glued to the ground and many people who have Parkinson’s face it. When you freeze, you may not be able to move forward again for some minutes, and you may feel that your feet are stuck to the ground.
You may also suffer from ‘start hesitation’ where you may have trouble starting a movement especially when you try to move forward or try to get out of bed. Your brain may send a signal for your body to move, but the body part may not register the signal immediately.
A tremor is an uncontrollable shaking of a body part, usually the hand. This is the most noticeable sign of Parkinson’s disease. However one must be careful to distinguish between a dystonic tremor that is caused due to muscle spasms or contractions and essential tremor which is caused due to Parkinson’s disease.
The Parkinson’s tremor can appear in 2 ways:
- A resting tremor. This might happen when your body is still and relaxed, for example when you’re lying in bed. The most typical tremor is called a ‘pill-rolling’ where it looks like you are trying to roll a pill between your thumb and index finger.
- An action tremor. This can happen when you’re doing something, like trying to hold something and your hand trembles.
Also called Bradykinesia, this kind of symptom manifests itself through an increased slowness doing something as simple as walking.
- The person may walks with short, shuffling steps
- The person takes longer to do simple things
- Poor hand leg coordination can also be a problem
This involves stiffening of the muscles leading to poor muscle relaxation. This can take the form of:
- Stiff muscles
- Inflexible muscles
- Pain and cramps
- Lack of facial expression – Mask like face
Rigid muscles can make it very difficult for people to get up from beds and chairs or stretch themselves. This is one of the most common complaints.
Bladder and Bowel Issues
If you have Parkinson’s, you may be more likely to have problems with your bladder or bowels than people of a similar age without the condition. This takes the form of:
- Incontinence – where one may feel the need to urinate immediately without warning.
- Nocturia – where one may feel the need to urinate many times during the night because of an overactive bladder.
Some people with Parkinson’s disease may also have dental health problems. Parkinson’s symptoms may manifest themselves in the following ways:
- Finding it difficult to swallow
- Dry mouth
- Tooth decay increase
- Difficulty in controlling dentures
This is the medical term for the conditions where eating and swallowing are difficult to do. While there could be many causes where dysphagia would be the outcome, in the case of patients with Parkinson’s disease, this manifests itself into what is called ‘silent aspiration’.
Also, those with Parkinson’s may find it difficult to swallow due to muscles of the tongue. Eating is also problematic and bits of food may remain in the mouth despite swallowing. Generating sufficient saliva for lubrication is also difficult for such patients.
Difficulties in moving the eyes up or down are more common in a condition called progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), which is a form of Parkinsonism.
This can make certain activities, such as driving, more difficult. Sometimes, instead of a smooth movement, your eyes may move in a slow and jerky manner.
People with Parkinson’s may blink less often than other people. People may also face involuntary closing of the eyelids – which is mainly caused by a side effect of some of the drugs that is prescribed for Parkinson’s disease.
Fatigue & Tiredness
Up to half of the people with Parkinson’s say they experience fatigue.
People who are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s are just as likely to experience fatigue as those who have had the condition for some time. In fact, it may be one of the earliest symptoms you have.
Pain is another symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Pain may manifest itself in the following manner:
This is the most common type of pain people with Parkinson’s experience.
It comes from the muscles and bones and is usually felt as an ache around joints, arms or legs. The pain stays in one area. These pains may increase as you get older and may also get worse because of Parkinson’s.
Muscle cramps associated with Parkinson’s can happen at any time. At night they may cause pain in your legs and calf muscles, as well as restlessness, which leads to disrupted sleep.
Involuntary muscle contraction or dystonia as it is called medically can affect body parts such as toes, fingers, ankles, wrists and make the part go into spasms.Radicular Pain
This is a sharp, shooting pain that travels down the arm or leg, and may involve the fingers and toes. Tingling and numbness in the toes and/or fingers is also common in people with Parkinson's.Dyskinetic Pain
This can occur due to involuntary movements that some people who have Parkinson’s disease may experience. It usually happens before, during or after a movement takes place.
Restless Leg Syndrome
This can cause symptoms such as pins and needles, painful sensations or burning of the legs. You may feel an irresistible urge to move your legs when relaxing, for example while sitting watching TV or going to sleep.
It is experienced by more women than men in the general population and can be a common problem for people who have Parkinson’s. Some people experience it occasionally, while for others it happens every day.
If you have Parkinson’s, you may find you have some problems with your speech such as slurring of speech or hoarse voice. You may even find it problematic to control your speech pattern and although you may want to speak, you may find it difficult to do so.
People with Parkinson’s disease may also suffer from having a monotonous flat voice without inflexions. This may make having conversations with others difficult and even embarrassing.
Taking your turn to speak, following fast-changing topics or interrupting conversations may be hard.
If you face any of the above physical symptoms, it may be a good choice to visit your nearest Parkinson’s specialist. You can find one by filling up the form on this page or by getting us to call you back.
Please note that all patients may not have all the symptoms. The symptoms evolve over time and can be present at different times in different individuals. If you feel you have one or more of these symptoms, it is a good idea to reach out to a good Parkinson specialist.