Parkinson's Disease Symptoms

Early signs of Parkinson’s disease (PD) may be mild and go unnoticed. Everyone with PD will experience symptoms differently. For example, many people experience tremors as their primary symptom, while others may notice a sense of weakness, difficulty walking, or stiff muscles.

Signs that you may have Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Resting tremor: In the early stages of the disease, many people experience a slight tremor in the hand or foot on one side of the body. The tremor consists of a shaking or oscillating movement and usually appears when a person's muscles are relaxed. The tremor often spreads to the other side of the body as the disease progresses, but usually remains most apparent on the initially affected side.
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia): Slowing down and loss of spontaneous and voluntary movement that makes once-simple tasks difficult and time-consuming is another sign of PD. Your steps may become shorter when you walk, or you may find it difficult to get out of a chair. Or you may drag your feet as you try to walk, making it difficult to move.
  • Rigidity: This causes stiffness and inflexibility of the limbs, neck, and trunk. The muscle tone of an affected limb is always stiff and doesn’t relax, sometimes contributing to a decreased range of motion and causing pain.
  • Postural instability: A person with postural instability has lost some of the reflexes needed for maintaining an upright posture and may topple backwards if pushed even slightly.

In addition to the primary signs of Parkinson’s, there are many other symptoms associated with the disease, including:

  • Writing changes: You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed; letter sizes might be smaller or the words more crowded together.
  • Loss of automatic movements: Parkinson’s disease can cause a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech and swallowing problems: You may speak softly, quickly, slur, or hesitate while talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than having its usual inflections. Difficulty swallowing, called dysphagia, tends to occur in the later stages of the disease.
  • Loss of the sense of smell
  • Sleep disruption
  • Constipation

Risk Factors

While a primary cause for PD is yet to be identified, a number of risk factors are clearly evident:

  • Age: Parkinson’s disease is rare in young people. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People who develop the disease are usually around 60 or older.
  • Heredity: Having a close relative with PD increases the chances that you'll develop the disease. However, your risks are still small unless many relatives in your family have had the disease.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women; on average, three men will develop the disease for every two women.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins: Exposure to herbicides and pesticides may put you at increased risk.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a Parkinson’s disease specialist at UT Southwestern’s facilities in Dallas, or to learn more about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.