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The 411 on Parkinson's

By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

Some of the symptoms that you can expect include:

  • Bradykinesia – slow walking or other movement related activities (walking, standing, or sitting down). Bradykinesia can also be seen in stiff facial muscles, often resulting in a “mask-like” appearance where facial expressions seldom change.
  • Trembling in the hands, fingers, forearms, feet, mouth, or chin
  • Rigid or stiff muscles, including muscles that suddenly freeze for no reason
  • Muscle pain, usually accompanied by the rigid or stiff muscles
  • Unsteady gait and balance.

Parkinson’s is usually characterized by a shuffling walk. The person usually looks down at the ground, not swinging their arms, keeping their shoulders drooped. The person can lean unnaturally forward or backward as they move. Some people have trouble starting to walk and often find their stride frozen as they try to move.

While the movement issues are paramount in helping physicians start the diagnosis process, there could be smaller (although no less significant), secondary symptoms that accompany the disease. A person may or may not exhibit these symptoms, and the disease varies widely from person to person depending on a variety of factors.

Secondary symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Small, cramped handwriting
  • Constipation or loss of control of bowels and/or bladder movement
  • Depression, fear, and/or anxiety
  • Decreased cognitive functioning, including slower processing of information and thinking abilities
  • Fatigue and muscle pain
  • Dry skin on the face and scalp
  • Changes in speech, including talking in a low, soft voice
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dementia

Making the Diagnosis:

While there is no definitive diagnosis for PD, doctors often run a battery of tests in order to rule out other causes of the patient’s problem. In other words, PD is a diagnosis of exclusion, with physicians making the final determination of PD after other avenues have been exhausted.

Some of the tests you might expect are blood tests, urine tests, CT and MRI scans, as well as neurological tests. A thorough neurological exam is needed in order to rule out other areas that could be causing the patient’s problems.

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