One million Americans are living with Parkinson's disease. It is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder next to Alzheimer's and dramatically impacts the quality of a patients' life, Parkinson's News Today reported.
Now for the good news.
Research shows there could be massive benefits from early intervention. This is most notable in the reduction of symptoms, but early treatment may also slow the progression of the disease.
The key is to catch it early.
Obvious symptoms tend to present themselves at a later stage of the disease, but there are early warning signs worth paying attention to.
Health news site The Mighty asked seven people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease to share which early symptoms of the disease they first noticed. Here we look at the answers:
1. Losing balance/ Matt Wagles said he first noticed something was off when he began losing his balance. For him, the early signs of Parkinson's presented themselves at a much younger age. He was 7.
"I was provided with a chair during school assembly, when everyone else had to stand," he said.
If you are having to concentrate on balancing and are unable to correct yourself when you start to fall, it is worth speaking to a medical professional.
2. Tremors. One of the most common early symptoms of Parkinson's is tremoring. That may be of the hand, finger, or other body parts. For Kirk Hall, this first happened while carrying a plate at a lunch meeting. It took 16 years before he was officially diagnosed. "In hindsight, I also experienced some cognitive and swallowing issues in the next few years following my ET [essential tremor] diagnosis," he said.
3. Difficulty with fine motor skills. Parkinson's affects a person's motor skills, which is what Nicola Lee experienced. She started feeling weak for several months but when she began to struggle with basic tasks like buttoning her clothes, she knew something was wrong.
"It wasn't just buttons either. I couldn't grip things well," she said. "I had trouble picking things off the floor, which was bad for laundry."
4. Deteriorating handwriting. A notable early sign of Parkinson's is illegible handwriting. The patient will start to write words and phrases that become increasingly harder to read. This is because the disease impacts motor skills and causes tremors, which make holding a pen difficult.
"When I told my primary care physician that my handwriting was becoming illegible, she told me to see a neurologist," Jean Mellano said. "Other strange things started to happen that I could not explain. While volunteering at a race, I was rolling posters for athlete giveaways. I could not understand why the other staff could roll five posters to my one. Why was I so slow at performing such a simple task?"
5. Changes in the voice. Parkinson's causes the muscles used to talk to weaken, which can cause someone to speak softer or slower. The disease may also cause a loss of facial expression. For singer Linda Ronstadt, this affected her ability to sing.
"I'd start to sing and then it would just clamp up. It was, like, a cramp. My voice would freeze," she said. "And I said, 'There's something wrong with my voice.' And people would say, 'Oh, you're just a perfectionist.' I go, 'No, there’s really something systemically wrong.'"
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