The earliest symptom of Parkinsons Disease is most often limb tremors, particularly when the body is at rest. For most people diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease, their first warning comes when a leg suddenly starts shaking while theyre laying in bed, and wont stop. The tremor can involve a hand, a foot, a leg or an arm. It usually affects only one side of the body at first, and it may be years before it affects any more than that one limb.
While the tremor is the most commonly reported early symptom, in some people it never develops at all. Other common symptoms include bradykinesia slow movement. It may feel like your hand or your arm is just not acting in response to your intention to move it for a few seconds. You go to move your hand and it just doesn’t respond.
A more severe expression of the disturbance of communication between your brain and body is akinesia the inability to move a part of your body. Parkinsons may also cause rigidity of the limbs and a fixed facial expression as the muscles of the face become less responsive to the messages from the brain.
Michael J. Fox, actor and producer, who was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinsons Disease at age 29, described his experience with the disease in a best-selling book. Lucky Man. In some of the most poignant passages of the book, he describes his Ã¢â‚¬Ëœbattle with his hand, which insisted on trembling when he didnt want it to. In his own words, it was as if that hand wasnt a part of him, and he both hated and was embarrassed by it.
That embarrassment isnt uncommon, according to many experts in the field of Parkinsons. While the characteristic tremor that announces Parkinsons Disease is one of the least debilitating of its symptoms, many with the disease find it the most disturbing, and go to great lengths to hide it. They may hide the hand in a pocket or behind their back to keep anyone from seeing it shaking without their volition.
As the disease progresses, symptoms become more pronounced. The tremor and other effects may spread from the single affected limb to the other limb on the same side, and finally to the limbs on the other side. This progress can take as much as 50 years in some patients. The progress of the disease varies from patient to patient. Among the symptoms that Parkinsons Disease may display are:
– Limb tremors
– Rigidity of the limbs
– Slowed movements as the muscles fail to respond to directives from the brain
– Difficulty walking and a characteristic shuffling gait
– Stooped posture
– Limited facial movements
– Balance disturbances leading to falls
– Micrographia (small, cramped and illegible writing)
– Monotonous voice tone
– Soft voice
– Sexual dysfunctions
Doctors point out that it is impossible to predict the progress of the disease in individual patients, though their own history may provide a barometer.