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Your symptoms

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s can cause a wide range of symptoms but it is very unlikely that you will experience all of them. Some symptoms often start on one side of the body and may then go on to affect both sides.

The main symptoms are: 

  • tremor, often first noticed in the hands, particularly when at rest
  • rigidity or stiffness, making movement difficult
  • bradykinesia or slowness of movement.

Over time different muscles may be affected and further movement or ‘motor’ symptoms may develop such as: 

  • posture and balance problems, for example turning or getting out of a chair, often leading to falls
  • problems with swallowing
  • speech changes
  • loss of facial expression (sometimes known as the Parkinson’s ‘mask’)
  • small handwriting.

‘Non-motor’ symptoms, i.e. not related to movement, may also develop such as:

  • anxiety and low mood
  • blurred vision
  • bowel and bladder difficulties
  • fatigue 
  • loss of sense of taste and smell
  • pain
  • weight gain or loss
  • changes in sleep pattern.

Over time as Parkinson’s progresses, medication, usually levodopa, may literally “wear off” or becomes less effective. If this occurs, Parkinson’s symptoms either re-emerge or worsen before the next dose of medication is due.

For a more detailed list of symptoms and further information on each of them see Symptoms.

Are the symptoms the same for everyone?

Just as we are all individuals, so the symptoms we experience will vary from one person to another. Some people find it helpful to discuss their experiences with others, and may find similarities, but because we are all so very different, so our experiences may differ. 

This should not be a cause for concern.

What symptoms will respond well to medication?

Medications are prescribed to control the symptoms you experience. As each person responds differently to any medication, how effective they will be will depend upon how your body and chemical balance responds.

Some symptoms tend to respond well to particular medications, for example Sinemet  and Madopar may help with stiffness and slowness of movement, whilst anticholinergics may improve tremor. You will need to monitor your responses with your doctor to see what works best for you.

If you experience a number of symptoms, your doctor may prescribe more than one medication. Sometimes a medication that improves one symptom may result in another being less well controlled, so by working with your doctor you will be able to achieve a good balance of symptom control throughout the day.

See also Symptoms.

Will my symptoms get worse?

Symptoms do tend to worsen but their progression is usually very gradual. Symptoms and responses to treatment are different for each individual, so it’s not really possible to predict progression. For some it may take many years for the condition to develop, in fact many people believe they had Parkinson's for maybe two or three years before they are actually diagnosed, for others it may take less time.

Are there other conditions that are similar?

Parkinsonism is the generic name given to a group of conditions that feature the main characteristics of Parkinson’s, i.e. tremor, rigidity of muscles, mobility problems and bradykinesia (slowness of movement). About 85% of people with Parkinsonism have the most common form, Parkinson’s, with the remaining 15% having different, much rarer conditions, such as Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) and Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB).

Because of these similarities, such conditions can be difficult to differentiate and diagnosis by an expert is essential.

See also Types of Parkinson's and Parkinsonism.

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