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Parkinson's Disease: Identifying the Early Signs

Senior couple facing a lake and holding eachother.

When properly diagnosing Parkinson’s disease, there must be certain motor symptoms present when finalizing the clinical diagnosis in an older adult. That doesn’t mean there aren’t earlier symptoms that aren’t tell-tale signs. These signs may appear several years before motor symptoms, like tremors or shakiness, begin to make their grand entrance.

There are a range of different symptoms that could emerge over the years but that doesn’t always mean an older adult will end up with Parkinson’s disease. However, early detection is critical for effective treatment and management of the disease so keep an eye out for some of these notable signs.

The Early Signs

Loss of Smell: Anosmia is the medical term used when someone has lost their sense of smell, whether it be partial or fully. Although this issue can be caused by injury, infection or simply a nasal blockage, it can be a cause for concern in older adults if this condition has not been linked to any of the aforementioned causes. Older adults with idiopathic anosmia (meaning there's no known cause for it) have a 50% chance of developing Parkinson’s disease within 5 to 10 years.

Sleep Disorders: When discussing sleep disorders in older adults as the potential foreshadowing of Parkinson’s disease, we are not talking about insomnia. Rather older adults who have a sleeping disorder or a REM behavior disorder will jerk or kick in their sleep. It is thought that these adults are acting out their dreams through movement in bed. Just like anosmia, if the aging adults' sleeping disorder cannot be linked to any underlying conditions, they have a 50% chance of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life.

Constipation: This symptom isn’t as easy to link to the development of Parkinson’s disease because it is not as specific as other prodromal (early) symptoms. There are many other reasons an older adult could be dealing with constipation, such as poor diet, lack of exercise or medication. But if a senior has unexplained and persistent constipation, it should be noted since it could be prodromal.

Depression and Anxiety: Although the number of cases that people have anxiety or depression are lower than other prodromal symptoms discussed, the link between the late-development of depression and anxiety and Parkinson’s disease should not be overlooked especially if the seniors never dealt with either of these mental health disorders before. After all, Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects dopamine-producing neurons in the brain.

Symptoms can vary from person to person and the four symptoms described above are just the most common and prevalent ones. If you are concerned you may be showing early signs and symptoms of a developing disorder such as Parkinson’s disease it is important that you speak with a healthcare professional to make sure you are not just overthinking your situation and can receive the care necessary for healthy aging, mentally and physically. Even more, routine doctor's visits are extremely important for aging adults. Catching an illness, disease or age-related disorder can be difficult and that is why routine doctors visits are essential for seniors.

Here are a list of helpful websites with more information about Parkinson’s disease:


For more informational senior lifestyle articles: click here! Or, discover tasty and healthy weekly recipes: here!

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