Diseases of the mind can rob us of our motor skills, sap our mental strength, make us lose control over our bodies. Many common known symptoms appear much later, however researchers are now looking at symptoms which start to appear early on.
Many of these symptoms are commonplace, however, an evaluation can help with early diagnosis and much better management and prognosis.
Loss of sense of smell: If you have trouble picking smells and are not able to distinguish between smells, then it is something worth getting checking up from your doctor.
Loss of smell or hyposmia is now characterized as one of the earliest symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Disturbed Sleep: A sound sleeper suddenly not able to sleep is of concern anyway but if accompanied by too much twitching, twisting, tossing and turning, it may be worth a visit to the doctor.
Disruption in regular sleep patterns has also now identified as one of the earliest signs of Parkinson’s.
Constipation: Change in bowel habits is of concern but if you find yourself skipping a day in between, it may be worth seeing a doctor. Diseases like Parkinson’s affect digestion and bowel movement much before other motor symptoms start to appear.
Sudden Stammering and rapid speech: Sudden change in speech such as speaking too fast or stammering may also indicate an onset of Parkinson’s.
Softer Voice: Families of patients have often mentioned softness in speech, a departure from normal speech, often with lack of expression as one of the early symptoms.
Depression: Many patients suffering from Parkinson’s were found to have been depressed years before an actual diagnosis of Parkison.
If one is depressed, it does not mean that one has Parkinson, but it may be worth a checkup for sure.
Slight Tremors, Shaking: Many families have mentioned noticing a slight tremor or shake years before actual diagnosis. If you suddenly notice minor tremors or shakes in your finger, lips, chin, arm, feet especially when stressed or excited, it may be worth a visit to the doctor.
Most of the above-mentioned symptoms can be specific to many other medical conditions but slight tremors may truly be specific only to Parkinson’s
Stiffness: If you find yourself or a loved one with not only stiff joints, but also stiff muscles, it’s not good news. Joint and muscle stiffness, feeling weighed down or in general not being able to move very well, is bad news always but if you find others commenting on stiffness, lack of movement and if you feel your body is like lead, heavy and stuck to the ground, it could be due to onset of Parkinson’s.
Change in handwriting: One of the early signs even prior to diagnosis is a change in handwriting. Words suddenly crowding together, handwriting becoming smaller is one of the early signs pre-diagnosis.
Parkinson’s is often difficult to diagnose and is not curable. However medical management can help patients by way of significant improvement in symptoms such as tremors, shaking, stiffness.
Balancing exercises, stretching also helps along with speech therapy when required.
Usually, medication involves giving patients Dopamine, a neurotransmitter which signals the brain. Parkinson patients are deficient in dopamine.
Some patients show significant improvement in symptoms with levodopa while a few remain unresponsive.
Carbidopa-levodopa given orally or by way of infusion as Parkinson’s will progress is the usual course of treatment. An improvement in symptoms with carbidopa-levodopa usually confirms the diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
Many patients at an advanced stage of Parkinson’s, may benefit from Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS as it is called.
DBS cannot cure the disease but is able to provide significant and sustained relief to patients who have an erratic response to levodopa.
Tremors, however, can be controlled with Deep Brain Stimulation even for patients not responsive to levodopa treatment.
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