Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
There’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s, a disease which is chronic and worsens over time. More than 50,000 new cases are reported in the United States each year. But there may be even more, since Parkinson’s is often misdiagnosed.
It’s reported that Parkinson’s complications are the 14th major cause of deathTrusted Source in the United States.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder. The first signs are problems with movement.
Smooth and coordinated muscle movements of the body are made possible by a substance in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine is produced in a part of the brain called the “substantia nigra.”
In Parkinson’s disease, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die. Many of the symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical messenger in your brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
How to Identify?
There’s no specific test for diagnosing Parkinson’s. Diagnosis is made based on health history, a physical and neurological exam, as well as a review of signs and symptoms.
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.
- Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
- Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
- Loss of automatic movements. You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
- Speech changes. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections.
- Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.
- Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may a rub your thumb and forefinger back-and-forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Your hand may tremor when it’s at rest.
What to Do?
No specific test exists to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Your doctor trained in nervous system conditions (neurologist) will diagnose Parkinson’s disease based on your medical history, a review of your signs and symptoms, and a neurological and physical examination. Your doctor may suggest a specific single-photon emission computerized tomography SPECT scan called a dopamine transporter (DAT) scan. Although this can help support the suspicion that you have Parkinson’s disease, it is your symptoms and neurologic examination that ultimately determine the correct diagnosis. Most people do not require a DAT scan.