Updated: Aug 30
With proliferation and easy availability of medical knowledge through the internet - many times, people tend to link their varied symptoms to specific diseases without consulting a physician.
One would not want such an occurrence with oneself or one’s family, even more so with a serious condition like Parkinson's.
This post talks about when you should seek a medical diagnosis of PD.
The basic guiding factors would be the early signs that a PD affected person starts to experience. Sometimes these are first noticed by family or friends.
Family or yourself may notice that you have started to stoop, slouch or lean when you are standing,
This usually occurs in one limb, very likely in one hand or its fingers. Another classic sign of the tremor experienced is that it would be present when the hand is at rest and stops when the hand is active. Not all tremors however indicate PD.
This could be mostly in the arms or legs. If the tremor is present, the stiffness in large muscles is likely to be on the same side.
Slowness of movement
Simple tasks like getting out of bed or chair, picking up a plate, buttoning or tying shoe laces may start to take longer, as your movements have become slow. Some range of movement may be reduced. It may seem like weakness to some, whereas it is actually slowness. Daily routine as a result becomes gradually more time-consuming than earlier.
Lack of facial expressions
Face may show little or no expression, while talking or even when feeling happy or sad. This also extends to loss of unconscious movements like blinking and smiling.
Decreased arm swing
One of your arms may swing less while walking than the other arm. This is usually noticed by a family member, rather than the affected person.
Your handwriting may turn out smaller than before and words may crowd together. You may also write slower than before.
Soft or low voice
The voice may become feeble and people around may ask you to speak up often. Also, the usual inflections in the speech may be reduced and thus the person sounds monotonous.
While most people who develop PD symptoms are in their early to mid 60s (if not later), a small percentage also develop PD before the age of 50. Such cases are termed as ‘early onset’ or ‘young onset’. This could happen anywhere between 20s to 40s, but most likely in the 40s. .
As PD is usually seen in older age, when symptoms like these show up in younger people, it does not strike the person or the family to confirm or rule out PD. Also, as there is a genetic factor usually seen when there is young onset of PD - if there is someone in the parents or grandparents (on either side) and any of these symptoms are noticed, it is time to seek help.
The symptoms listed above are also seen in early onset PD - but stiffness, slowness, involuntary body movements and tremors are found to be more common than the others.
A single symptom from the above is not enough to make a diagnosis of PD. It would be a combination of some of the symptoms that would raise a suspicion for the existence of PD.
It is to be noted that there are also other neurological conditions that can produce similar symptoms.
It is important to meet your family physician or a neurologist (especially if multiple symptoms are severe or present for a prolonged period). It is possible to live a satisfactory life even with Parkinson’s. Many new treatments and therapies are being developed. It is advisable to seek help from a medical professional, since delaying medications and other therapies can worsen symptoms and hasten progression of the condition.