Published on March 14, 2022

Could I have Parkinson's Disease?

A person worried about a slight shaking in their hands.

Close to 60,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD) each year. And right now, nearly a million Americans are living with it. But would you know how to recognize a PD symptom if you or a loved one had one?

Most everyone knows that tremors are a sign of PD, but did you know that talking in a soft or low voice and having small handwriting can also be symptoms? There are other early warning signs that may surprise you as well. Read on to learn more about this disorder and how to recognize the possible signs and symptoms.

What exactly is PD, and how is it treated?

PD is a condition in which the brain cells that make dopamine—the chemical responsible for the body's movement—stop working or die. Though the root cause is still unknown, scientists think both genetics and environment may contribute to its onset.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating PD, but for most people treatment often begins with some kind of medication. Other types of treatments include:

  • Lifestyle modification
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Participating in a clinical trial
  • Occupational therapy
  • Surgery

10 signs and symptoms to know

The signs and symptoms of PD can take years to develop. And because the disorder often develops gradually, many early warning signs are easily shrugged off or ignored. Though not everyone experiences the same symptoms, and progression can be different for everyone, knowing what to look for can help you get an earlier diagnosis and faster treatment.

Bear in mind that many of these signs and symptoms of PD are similar to those of other conditions. So talk to your doctor right away if you're experiencing any of these 10 early warning signs:

  1. Tremor or slight shaking in your hands or chin
  2. Smaller handwriting than in the past
  3. Loss of smell
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Body stiffness
  6. Constipation
  7. Being soft-spoken or having a low voice
  8. A constant "mad" expressions on your face, also called a "masked face"
  9. Dizziness
  10. Stooping or not standing upright

An early diagnosis is best

Again, don't wait to see a doctor if you or a loved one has any of the signs or symptoms of PD. While PD isn't fatal, complications can be serious. Keep in mind that if you are diagnosed with PD, it's possible to enjoy a good quality of life. And that starts by working with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

Sources: Michael J. Fox Foundation; Parkinson's Foundation