What Are the Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease?

Three generations outside
March 27th, 2023

Almost one million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, and about 60,000 are diagnosed with it each year.[i] Both men and women develop Parkinson’s disease, though data from the National Institute on Aging[ii] show that it affects about 50% more men than women. Most people develop Parkinson’s disease symptoms around age 60.

Making a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can be difficult because many of the symptoms initially look like normal aging. That’s why it’s important to report any symptoms to your primary care provider as soon as you notice them.

What are the early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease?

The four primary or “cardinal” symptoms of Parkinson’s include:

  • Trembling or shaking in hands, arms, legs, jaw, chin or head
  • Stiffness in the arms, legs, back or torso
  • Slowing movement
  • Impaired balance and coordination, including falls

Other Parkinson’s disease symptoms include:

  • Depression and other emotional changes
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing and talking
  • Urinary problems or constipation
  • Skin problems
  • Blank stare or infrequent blinking

Since many of these symptoms can be associated with aging, many people don’t talk to their primary care provider until the symptoms start to disrupt daily living. But you or your family member shouldn’t have to live with any of these conditions. When you notice any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, don’t wait to see the doctor.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease that gets worse over time without intervention, so early diagnosis is crucial to maintaining quality of life as long as possible.

Discover how technology can help as you age.

Can I test myself for Parkinson’s disease?

While there’s no home test for Parkinson’s disease, you can check yourself or your loved one’s health against the list of early warning signs above. Report any symptoms to the doctor so they can determine whether the symptoms are Parkinson’s disease, and devise a treatment plan.

Is it Parkinson’s disease or aging?

Only a medical professional can determine whether symptoms indicate Parkinson’s disease, another chronic condition or aging. While the prospect of a Parkinson’s diagnosis may be scary, knowing your health status is vital to successfully managing your wellbeing and staying independent.

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Don’t disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking it, because of what you read here. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional consultation, diagnosis or treatment; it is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. Always consult a healthcare provider if you have specific questions about any medical matter, and seek professional attention immediately if you think you or someone in your care may be experiencing a healthcare condition or medical emergency. 

[i] The Parkinson’s Foundation. https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Statistics [ii] National Institutes of Health – National Institute on Aging. Parkinson’s Disease Information Page.