The symptoms of Parkinson's disease vary from person to person. Early signs may be subtle and can go unnoticed for months or years. Symptoms typically begin on one side of the body and usually remain worse on that side. Parkinson's signs and symptoms may include:
- Tremor. The characteristic shaking associated with Parkinson's disease often begins in a hand. A back-and-forth rubbing of your thumb and forefinger, known as pill-rolling, is common. However, many people with Parkinson's disease do not experience substantial tremor.
- Slowed motion (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson's disease may reduce your ability to initiate voluntary movement. This may make even the simplest tasks difficult and time-consuming. When you walk, your steps may become short and shuffling. Or your feet may freeze to the floor, making it hard to take the first step.
- Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness often occurs in your limbs and neck. Sometimes the stiffness can be so severe that it limits the range of your movements and causes pain.
- Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped as a result of Parkinson's disease. Imbalance also is common, although this is usually mild until the later stages of the disease.
- Loss of automatic movements. Blinking, smiling and swinging your arms when you walk are all unconscious acts that are a normal part of being human. In Parkinson's disease, these acts tend to be diminished and even lost. Some people may develop a fixed staring expression and unblinking eyes. Others may no longer gesture or seem animated when they speak.
- Speech changes. Many people with Parkinson's disease have problems with speech. You may speak more softly, rapidly or in a monotone, sometimes slurring or repeating words, or hesitating before speaking.
- Dementia. In the later stages of Parkinson's disease, some people develop problems with memory and mental clarity. Alzheimer's drugs appear to alleviate some of these symptoms to a mild degree.