Understanding Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disorder most commonly affecting adults over 40 years old. The primary indicator is difficulties with movement, caused by a loss of dopamine. Dopamine is a naturally produced chemical in the brain responsible for smooth, coordinated bodily movements. It is produced in the area of the brain referred to as the “substantia nigra”. Parkinson’s disease causes the cells in this area to die, reducing dopamine levels.
In this article, we are going to explain the symptoms of Parkinson’s and how it is diagnosed. We will also go over the five stages of this degenerative condition. We are here to support you and your family through this diagnosis. We are proud to offer quality in home senior care, specialized to care for those who suffer with Parkinson’s disease.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
As mentioned, one of the primary symptoms of Parkinson’s is difficulties with movement- but it may take several years before motor problems appear. Some of the early signs of Parkinson’s include:
- Anosmia (decreased ability to smell)
- Small, cramped handwriting
- Changes in voice
- Posture is stooped
Visible motor issues associated with Parkinson’s:
- Stiffness in arms, legs, and torso
- Difficulty with balance, increased fall risk
- Slow movements
There are also some secondary symptoms associated with Parkinson’s:
- Muffled, low-volume speech
- Blank expression
- Decreased blinking
- Decreased swallowing
- Reduced arm swing when walking
- Tendency to get “stuck” when walking
- Tendency to fall backward
- “Parkinsonian gait”, tendency to take shuffling steps when walking
Other potential symptoms of Parkison’s:
- Seborrheic dermatitis, or flaky white/yellow scales on oily areas of skin
- Increased melanoma risk
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty with attention/memory
- Trouble with visual-spatial relationships
Unfortunately, many times the early signs of Parkinson’s go unrecognized. However, this is your body alerting you that something is wrong years before it becomes more serious.
How is Parkinson’s Diagnosed?
There is not a test to diagnose Parkinson’s. Physicians will do a physical and neurological exam and review the signs and symptoms. In addition, they will consider past health history and family history.
The physician may use imaging tests, such as MRI or CAT scan to rule out other conditions. In addition, a dopamine transporter scan, or DAT, may be used. It’s important to keep in mind that these tests do not confirm a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, but they can rule out other conditions.
Stages of Parkinson’s Disease
As we mentioned, Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder, meaning the symptoms worsen over time. Many physicians utilize the Hoehn and Yahr scale to classify the stages of Parkinson’s. This divides symptoms in to five stages, helping healthcare workers learn how advanced the condition is.
This is the mildest form and you may not even notice symptoms because they may not interfere with your day-to-day life/tasks. If you are experiencing symptoms, they may only be on one side of your body.
The transition from stage 1 to stage 2 may take several months and even years, in some cases. Each person’s experience is likely to be different. This is considered a moderate stage. Patients may experience the following symptoms:
- Facial expression changes
- Muscle stiffness
Muscle stiffness makes daily tasks more complicated, taking you longer to complete them. However, you should not be experiencing balance issues at this time. The symptoms are likely to appear on both sides of your body and the changes in facial expressions, gait, and posture are likely to be more noticeable.
This is the stage where symptoms will likely begin to turn. You will not likely experience any new symptoms, but the ones you have will begin to worsen. In addition, they may complicate daily tasks further.
Movements are obviously slower, along with daily activities. In this stage, balance issues become more prominent, so you are more likely to experience a fall. However, most of the time, a stage 3 Parkinson’s patient will be able to maintain their independence and take care of themselves without a lot of independence. Elderly care is not likely needed at this point.
There are some significant changes that occur in the transition from stage 3 to stage 4 and patients often require in home senior care at this point. You will have difficulty standing without an assistive device of some kind and your reactions/movements become much slower.
This is the most advanced stage. At this point, the symptoms will be so severe you will require constant care. You will have difficulty standing and, in some cases, may not be able to stand at all. You will likely need a wheelchair at this point.
Additionally, you may be experiencing hallucinations, delusions, and confusion.
Specialized Support and Care for Parkinson’s Disease
If you or a loved one live in Colorado Springs and have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, let Gentle Shepherd Home Care help support you. We are the area’s premier in-home senior care provider. Contact us for a care assessment today. We will be happy to help you determine the type of care you or your loved one needs. We provide specialized care for those with Parkinson’s disease in addition to our home care services:
- In-home senior care
- Respite care
- Recovery care
- Companion sitters
- Specialized support
You are not alone. Gentle Shepherd Home Care is here to help.