Unmasking Parkinson’s: Recognizing the Telltale Symptoms of this Neurological Condition

Unmasking Parkinson's: Recognizing the Telltale Symptoms of this Neurological Condition

Parkinson’s usually takes a gradual course, which is why the symptoms are often non-specific at the beginning. Over time, however, the characteristic signs of Parkinson’s disease become more and more pronounced. Typical symptoms are a slowdown in movement (bradykinesis) and a sedentary lifestyle (hypokinesis), which can go as far as immobility (akinesia). In addition, there is usually muscle stiffness (rigour), postural instability (postural instability) and shaking ( tremor ). However, the resting tremor, often the first thing associated with Parkinson’s disease, does not necessarily have to occur.

Parkinson: Definition

It is valid for all Parkinson’s symptoms that they are often associated with the disease but do not necessarily have to occur. They can also differ significantly from patient to patient in their intensity. According to the definition, Parkinson’s is always spoken of when a slowing of movement occurs together with one of the three other vital symptoms – tremor, rigidity and postural instability.


Early-stage Parkinson’s symptoms

The symptoms that occur in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease are usually not very specific and are often reminiscent of rheumatic diseases. For example, painful shoulder or arm tension usually occurs on one side. In addition, olfactory disorders, sleep disorders and a general feeling of tiredness, as well as sweating and constipation, can occur. Depressive moods or personality changes can also be the first signs that point to Parkinson’s.

If the disease progresses, the first movement disorders become noticeable: Fine motor activities such as brushing teeth, combing hair or writing become increasingly difficult for those affected. Over time, the writing gets smaller and more illegible. In addition, Parkinson’s patients have problems coordinating various movements. The gait of those affected also changes due to the slowing of movement: the steps become smaller, the gait becomes shuffling, and the upper body is bent over. Instead of both arms, only one arm usually swings along when walking; after a while, this arm no longer swings along either.

In addition to the changed gait pattern, facial expressions decrease over time (mask face) and blinking becomes less frequent. In addition, the voice often becomes quieter. It is also typical that a rest tremor occurs, which affects the arms much more than the legs. As the name suggests, the tremor is much more pronounced at rest than when moving. A resting tremor is primarily typical of Parkinson’s disease, but it can also have other causes, such as diseases of the cerebellum.

Advanced stage symptoms

In the advanced stage, the movement disorders continue to increase: in addition to the typical symptom of slowing down of movement, pronounced muscle stiffness now occurs, which is caused by increased muscle tone. Due to muscle stiffness, fast movements such as when braking a movement are no longer possible. A sign of the stiffening of the muscles is, for example, slightly bent arms.

Falls are also more common as the disease progresses because posture becomes more unstable. As the holding and righting reflexes decrease, it is also more challenging to keep your balance, and it is more challenging to brace yourself in the event of a fall. In the advanced stage, the trembling of the hands becomes more evident. In addition, the following symptoms may also occur:

In addition to physical symptoms, Parkinson’s often also has psychological symptoms: many suffer from anxiety disorders or depression. About 20 per cent of those affected also experience memory disorders, which can indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.


Akinetic Crisis

In the late stages of Parkinson’s disease, the patient can become completely unable to move quickly. This is called an akinetic crisis. This symptom usually occurs within a few days. Since those affected can no longer speak or swallow, they must be taken to a clinic immediately.

An akinetic crisis can be triggered, among other things, by stopping Parkinson’s drugs or by significantly reducing the dose. In addition, it can also be caused by severe infections, operations and dehydration. It is, therefore, essential to ensure that Parkinson’s patients always drink enough fluids.

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