Parkinson’s disease is an illness that affects the part of your brain that controls how you move your body. It can come on so slowly that you don’t even notice it at first. But over time, what starts as a little shakiness in your hand can have an impact on how you walk, talk, sleep, and think. You’re more likely to get it when you’re 60 and older. It’s also possible for it to start when you’re younger, but that doesn’t happen nearly as often.
The main symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
- uncontrollable shaking and tremors
- slowed movement (bradykinesia)
- balance difficulties and eventual problems standing up
- stiffness in limbs
Physicians have established Parkinson’s in 5 stages known as the Hoehn and Yahr Scale used by physicians throughout the world to classify patients in research studies.
5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease
Stage 1 of Parkinson’s Disease-
In stage one, the earliest stage, the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are mild and only seen on one side of the body. Symptoms at stage one may include tremor, such as intermittent tremor of one hand, rigidity, or one hand or leg may feel more clumsy than another, or one side of the face may be affected, impacting the expression. This stage is very difficult to diagnose and a physician may wait to see if the symptoms get worse over time before making a formal diagnosis. The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease at stage one may be so mild that the person doesn’t seek medical attention or the physician is unable to make a diagnosis. A distinct symptom of stage one Parkinson’s is that tremors and other difficulties in movement are generally exclusive to one side of the body. Prescribed medications can work effectively to minimize and reduce symptoms at this stage.
Stage 2 of Parkinson’s Disease-
Stage two is still considered early disease in Parkinson’s Disease, and it is characterized by symptoms on both sides of the body. Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease in stage two include slurring speech, stiffness or rigidity of the muscles in the trunk that may result in neck or back pain, stooped posture, stooped posture, and general slowness in all activities of daily living. While muscle stiffness prolongs task completion, stage 2 does not impair balance. Difficulties walking develop or increase and the person’s posture may start to change. The majority of people with stage 2 Parkinson’s can still live alone, though they may find that some tasks take longer to complete. The progression from stage 1 to stage 2 can take months or even years. And there is no way to predict individual progression. In this stage mainly, both sides of the body get affected, with posture and gait changes.
Stage 3 of Parkinson’s Disease-
Stage 3 is the middle stage in Parkinson’s, and it marks a major turning point in the progression of the disease. Stage three is characterized by loss of balance and slowness of movement. Balance is compromised by the inability to make the rapid, automatic and involuntary adjustments necessary to prevent falling, and falls are common at this stage. Often a physician will diagnose impairments in reflexes at this stage by standing behind the patient and gently pulling the shoulders to determine if the patient has trouble maintaining balance and falls backward. In this stage mainly the body loses balance and tends to fall quite a lot.
Stage 4 of Parkinson’s Disease-
In stage four, Parkinson’s Disease has progressed to a severely disabling disease. Patients with stage four Parkinson’s Disease may be able to walk and stand unassisted, but they are noticeably incapacitated. Many use a walker to help them. At this stage, the patient is unable to live an independent life and needs assistance with some activities of daily living. The necessity for help with daily living defines this stage. If the patient is still able to live alone, it is still defined as Stage Three. Many people are unable to live alone at this stage of Parkinson’s because of significant decreases in movement and reaction times. Living alone at stage 4 or later may make many daily tasks impossible, and it can be extremely dangerous.
Stage 5 of Parkinson’s Disease-
Stage five is the most advanced and is characterized by an inability to rise from a chair or get out of bed without help, they may have a tendency to fall when standing or turning, and they may freeze or stumble when walking. Around-the-clock assistance is required at this stage to reduce the risk of falling and help the patient with all daily activities. At stage five, the patient may also experience hallucinations or delusions.
While the symptoms worsen over time, it is worth noting that some patients with Parkinson’s Disease never reach stage five. Also, the length of time to progress through the different stages varies from individual to individual. Not all the symptoms may occur in one individual either. For example, one person may have a tremor but balance remains intact. In addition, there are treatments available that can help at every stage of the disease. However, the earlier the diagnosis, and the earlier the stage at which the disease is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment is at alleviating symptoms.