Parkinson’s disease is not easy to predict. The disease progresses in different ways in different patients. But symptoms will fall into two categories: motor skills, such as tremors and muscle rigidity; and non-motor skills, such as dementia and loss of smell. There will be a mix of these categories.
Despite its variances, Parkinson’s does follow a broad pattern. Changes tend to come on slowly in a patient. Symptoms will worsen over time, and then will be accompanied by new ones.
Since we treat many patients with Parkinson’s at Texas Neurosurgery, here’s some information on how symptoms progress in motor and non-motor areas.
Mild stage — Symptoms are bothersome but usually aren’t stopping the person from being able to do them.
- You can’t make certain facial expressions
- Your legs can feel heavy at times
- Your arms don’t swing as freely when you walk
- Your posture is stooping
- Handwriting gets smaller
- Arms or legs get still
Moderate stage — Now tasks such as buttoning a shirt can become difficult. Symptoms progress to a moderate level often in 3-7 years of first diagnosis.
- Freezing when you first start to walk, as if your feet are glued to the ground
- Changes in speech, such as softening voice or a voice that trails off
- Trouble swallowing
- More likely to fall
- Balance and coordination problems
- Slower movements
- Small, shuffling steps
Advanced stage — Some people never reach this stage. Here medication no longer has much effect.
- You are likely limited to a bed or wheelchair
- Can’t live on your own
- Severe posture issues with neck, back, and hips
- Need help with daily tasks
Non-motor skill problems
Most Parkinson’s patients also develop at least one non-motor skills problem. In the early years symptoms such as constipation, depression, loss of smell, low blood pressure when you stand up, pain, and insomnia can all be a part of the disease.
You may also have issues with planning and thinking, things such as forgetfulness and a short attention span.
Later stages problems include dementia and psychosis (where you see or hear things that aren’t there or believe in things that aren’t based in reality).