What are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease may differ from person to person, but there are thought to be four primary symptoms. They are tremors, muscle stiffness, slowed movement (known as bradykinesia), and difficulty balancing or holding steady posture. Tremors are usually the first symptom noticed, although a minority first notices problems moving or a decreased sense of smell. With time, symptoms tend to get worse and can lead to difficulty walking, speaking, sleeping or eating.

Following are some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease:

  • Shaking that people can’t control is a symptom of Parkinson's disease called a tremor.
  • Parts of the body become stiff, which makes it difficult to move. This means movements become really slow, like reaching for a glass of water or turning around.
  • Walking or talking differently.
  • Writing may become really small.
  • The face becomes less expressive.
  • Parkinson’s disease also makes people tired, so they need lots of naps.
  • Sometimes Parkinson’s disease makes people feel more anxious about things.
  • Thinking can become slower.
Some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease may include shaking or tremors in your arms and legs when you are still. In addition, you may have balance issues and muscle stiffness. These symptoms alone do not necessarily indicate that a person has Parkinson's. If you have any concerns, you should follow up with your doctor and report any symptoms you may have.

Symptoms of Parkinson's disease usually begin gradually and often start on just one side of the body. Early symptoms include:

  • shaking or trembling of your hands, legs and face
  • stiffness in your arms and legs
  • slow movement
  • problems with balance and coordination

As the disease progresses, people with Parkinson's may experience:

  • trouble walking
  • problems doing simple things like
  • depression
  • trouble sleeping
  • difficulty speaking
  • difficulty with chewing and swallowing

The cardinal symptom that people with Parkinson’s deal with is the slowing down of movement. You may notice that a person:

  • doesn't move his arms or legs as quickly as before
  • speaks slower and more softly
  • has trouble buttoning buttons
  • has handwriting that gets smaller and cramped
  • has slower reactions
  • doesn't smile the way he used to
  • has trembling in his arms or legs or jaw when he is at rest

People with Parkinson's disease have movement symptoms and what is called non-motor symptoms. Parkinson's disease is a disorder of movement, primarily. Movement symptoms include:

  • slow movement
  • tremor
  • balance problems
  • stiffness

Non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease include:

  • constipation,
  • sleep disturbances, where people act out their dreams very vividly
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • cramping
  • softening of the voice
  • writing changes, where writing gets much smaller the longer the person writes

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Nader Pouratian, MD

The three key symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremor, stiffness and slowness. Many patients first notice a slight tremor in the hand or leg or find it more difficult to do things with their hands. As opposed to essential tremor, which has a tremor that is greatest during movement, the tremor of Parkinson’s disease is greatest at rest and is classically described as a “pill-rolling tremor.” The disease almost always presents on one side and eventually progresses to include symptoms on both sides. Although considered a movement disorder, Parkinson’s disease also affects the body in other ways, including loss of smell, vivid dreams, depression and other secondary symptoms.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.