Did you know that Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder? In fact, approximately 1 percent of all adults over 60 are affected by it — men more so than women. While there is no current cure or an overall consensus on how or why Parkinson’s happens, there are still some things you can do for your loved one, including learning about the disease and the early signs of Parkinson’s.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
The disease affects the body’s cells, specifically those that are part of the brain and spinal cord. These cells relay messages from the brain that control movement as well as produce dopamine. When these cells become damaged — like with Parkinson’s — dopamine production decreases and leads to difficulty with movement.
What Are the Early Warning Signs of Parkinson's Disease?
While there are some Parkinson’s warning signs, these signs can also be relative to other conditions. An isolated symptom isn’t an indicator, but if your loved one is experiencing multiple symptoms, you should make an appointment with their healthcare provider right away to determine if it’s Parkinson’s or a natural sign of aging. Symptoms include:
- Tremors. This is the most common sign of Parkinson’s disease. Tremors, in this case, will be involuntary shaking of limbs, hands or the jaw. They will happen frequently after exercise, intense stress, an injury or taking medication unrelated to Parkinson’s. “Resting tremors” will also occur, where the person will experience tremors more often when they’re resting.
- Balance Issues. If your loved one has Parkinson’s, they’ll likely have trouble maintaining balance — even with mobility aids — and be susceptible to frequent falls. They may have difficulty standing up straight as well, tending to lean or slouch when they stand. However, conditions such as low blood pressure or an injury can also cause balance problems.
- Stiffness. Stiffness in different parts of their body — including arms, legs and feet — will occur if your loved one is affected by Parkinson’s disease. An early sign can be pain in their hips or shoulders. If the stiffness doesn’t go away after some movement, it could be a sign that it’s time to seek a healthcare professional’s opinion.
- Dizziness or Fainting. While feeling dizzy or even fainting can simply mean low blood pressure, it can also be an early warning sign of Parkinson’s disease. If your loved one is experiencing dizzy spells more frequently than usual when they stand up too quickly, it’s important to keep an eye out for other potential symptoms.
- Changes in Non-Motor Functions. Non-motor functions include controlling the volume of one’s voice, expressions, memory and moods. If someone is suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s, these functions could be affected as well. Watch for “masked” facial expressions, a softer or more monotonous voice over time and developing cognitive or mood issues including memory loss, anxiety, depression or even psychosis.
While these symptoms could be indicative of another condition, it’s still important to consult your loved one’s physician or healthcare provider.
How Do You Test for Parkinson's?
Unfortunately, no specific tests exist to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Instead, your loved one’s doctor will be able to diagnose them based on their medical history and symptoms, and by performing a neurological and physical exam. Lab and imaging tests may also be ordered to rule out other conditions.
Is Parkinson's Disease Hereditary?
Research suggests that while Parkinson’s disease appears to be hereditary in some cases, it’s mostly random and doesn’t run in families. However, many researchers believe it results as a combination of both genetic and environmental factors, including exposure to toxins.
Experience Quality Care at Garden Plaza of Florissant
If your loved one is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by a medical professional, one of the best things you can do for their health is to get them the help and care they deserve. That’s where Garden Plaza comes in. Our assisted living community is well equipped to provide care for the unique needs of those with Parkinson’s. The warm and friendly atmosphere allows them to settle in comfortably to their new home, while exciting activities and amenities nourish their mind, body and spirit.
To learn more about how your loved one can flourish with a vibrant life at Garden Plaza of Florissant, contact our team today.