usually starts very slowly and subtly. Some people notice a tremor in just a single finger. (Michael J. Fox discovered his Parkinson's disease this way.) Over time, this tremor begins to affect the whole hand, and then the entire arm. Other symptoms may also begin gradually, becoming more severe over time. Not everybody with Parkinson’s disease develops every single symptom.
In addition, some of these symptoms (specifically
, sleep disturbance, and loss of smell) may start years before any tremor is noticed.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may include:
Shakes or tremors
Usually occurs at rest, may disappear while you are purposely movingUsually absent during sleepMay worsen when you’re under emotional stressMay take the form of “pill rolling” (a rubbing movement of the index finger and thumb)Tremors tend to start in a single finger on one hand, but may progress to the entire arm, head, lips, feet
Slowed movements (bradykinesia)
Walking and other movement becomes very slowYou may begin to shuffle when walkingYour steps become shorter and shorter
Muscle stiffness or rigidity
If someone takes your arm and tries to move it, it will seem as if you are purposely tightening up your muscles and resisting, although this is happening completely involuntarily.Your handwriting may become very small and cramped, as it becomes more difficult to initiate movement.You’ll lose the ability to participate in automatic movement, such as blinking and swinging your arms while walking.Because swallowing becomes increasingly difficult, you may begin to drool and have an increased risk of choking on food.Stiffened facial muscles may take on an expression called the “Parkinson’s face,” an unblinking, unsmiling, mask-like stare.You may have difficulty initiating movement and difficulty rising from a seated position.
Problems with speech
Your voice may become softer.You may speak in a flat, monotone voice.You may begin to stutter.
Problems with balance and coordination
You may start to walk in a very unsteady fashion.You have an increased risk of falling.Writing, dressing, and eating all become more difficult.Stooped, bent-over postureFatigueDepressionConfusionDifficulty sleepingCramping, burning pain in the legsRestless leg syndrome
(inability to stop moving the legs at night, resulting in extreme difficulty sleeping)
Personality changesSexual problemsLoss of bladder controlLoss of the sense of smellDecreased eye blinkingChanges in body temperatureHeavy sweatingMemory problemsDementiaConstipation
due to slowing of the intestinal muscles that aid digestion
Sudden, large drops in blood pressure upon first standing up, which can result in fainting or fallingSeborrhea
(which causes the skin to look oily)
Nocturia, increased urine frequency and urgencyFreezing in advanced stagesStooped posture
Conn HF, Rakel RE.
Conn’s Current Therapy 2002.
54th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 2002.
Lucky Man: A Memoir.
New York, NY: Hyperion; 2002.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.