Symptoms of Parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s disease is primarily known as a disease of movement and affects around 120,000 people in the UK. The majority of sufferers are over 60 (late onset Parkinson’s) but approximately 6000 were diagnosed before they are 60 (early onset Parkinson’s like me). The so-called “cardinal signs” of the disease affect movement. They are:

Slowness; walking may be slow or there is a loss of dexterity in the hands (e.g. I have trouble tying shoe laces), or there is slow or impaired movement in the arms or legs (called or “bradykinesia”; e.g. I don’t swing my arms when I walk). 

Rigidity; sufferers can feel a stiffness in their arms and legs that can be painful (e.g. I feel like I have a plaster cast all over my body; my hip and shoulder joints tend to be stiff and painful). 

Tremor; this is a rhythmical shaking that is typically present in the hand or foot. My tremor gets worse when I am stressed and is also usually present when I am resting my hands. The tremor is probably the most visible sign of Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s is a highly complex disease with additional movement and psychological problems. Note that not all sufferers will have all of the symptoms.

Sufferers may have “postural instability” or they walk with short shuffling steps and are prone to losing balance and falling over. This may be associated with periods of "freezing", which means when your legs suddenly stop working and it feels like your foot is glued to the floor. Speech may become softer; swallowing can also be affected, leading to excess saliva in your mouth causing drooling and food or tablets may get stuck in your throat. Parkinson’s can also cause bladder and bowel problems such as incontinence. Of all things, sufferers can lose their sense of smell. The list continues; sleep can be disturbed, which impacts energy levels, mood and movement.

Parkinson’s is associated with psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, dementia and hallucinations. These problems can make living with the physical symptoms and making the most of life very difficult.

Please see your GP or Consultant Neurologist if you suspect you have any of these symptoms (they can occur in diseases other than Parkinson's). There is more information at Parkinson's UK ( and the Michael J Fox Foundation (

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