» Early Parkin­son’s symp­toms you need to be aware of Health & Life­style

YOU MAY KNOW THE CON­DI­TION CAN CAUSE SHAKES, BUT WOULD YOU RECOG­NISE ANY OTHER TELL­TALE SIGNS? LIZ CONNOR GETS EX­PERT ADVICE

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS -

AROUND one in 500 peo­ple in the UK are af­fected by Parkin­son’s dis­ease, but many of us are still in the dark when it comes to spot­ting the signs and symp­toms. The neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the ‘sub­stan­tia ni­gra’. When these cells be­gin to de­te­ri­o­rate, it causes a re­duc­tion of dopamine – a chem­i­cal that plays a key role in con­trol­ling and co­or­di­nat­ing move­ment in the body.

This dam­age can lead to the tell­tale tremors that many of us most as­so­ci­ate with the dis­ease, where the hands, arms, legs, lips, jaw or tongue be­come shaky when not in use. How­ever, Parkin­son’s UK

(parkin­sons.org.uk) points out it’s not just tremors you need to look for.

The con­di­tion can ac­tu­ally af­fect peo­ple in a wide range of ways – in fact, there are over 40 pos­si­ble symp­toms – which the char­ity is on a mis­sion to high­light with their new cam­paign, Parkin­son’s Is.

Here, Katie Goates, Parkin­son’s UK’S com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, ex­plains just 10 po­ten­tial signs and symp­toms of Parkin­son’s...

1. RE­DUCED SENSE OF SMELL

WHILE notic­ing a re­duced sense of smell doesn’t mean you’ll de­velop Parkin­son’s, the ma­jor­ity of pa­tients re­port this un­usual symptom.

“For ex­am­ple, you may strug­gle to smell your favourite foods,” says Katie. “This is a key warn­ing sign, as a loss of smell can oc­cur sev­eral years be­fore other symp­toms.”

2. DIS­TURBED SLEEP

“CHANGES in your sleep pat­tern might be an­other early sign,” warns Katie. “Sleep and night-time prob­lems are com­mon and can af­fect you at any stage of the con­di­tion, leav­ing you feel­ing tired and drowsy dur­ing the day.”

Symp­toms such as tremors, stiff­ness, pain and rest­less legs syn­drome, can all dis­turb sleep.

As sleep­ing prob­lems can also be caused by men­tal health prob­lems, like stress, anxiety and de­pres­sion, it’s worth con­sult­ing your GP to get to the root of the cause.

3. FRE­QUENT URI­NA­TION OR CON­STI­PA­TION

BOWEL prob­lems such as cramps, bloat­ing, di­ar­rhoea and con­sti­pa­tion are com­mon, but any change to your toi­let habits, par­tic­u­larly blood in bowel move­ments, should be re­ported to your GP.

“If you have Parkin­son’s, you may be more likely to have prob­lems with your blad­der or bow­els,” says Katie. “Signs of an over­ac­tive blad­der, such as need­ing to uri­nate im­me­di­ately with­out warn­ing, or need­ing to go fre­quently through­out the night, are com­mon symp­toms. These may hap­pen be­cause mes­sages from the brain giv­ing the blad­der in­struc­tions aren’t get­ting through prop­erly.”

4. DE­PRES­SION

“THERE are sev­eral pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions for why peo­ple with Parkin­son’s might get de­pres­sion, and it is of­ten dif­fi­cult to di­ag­nose as its symp­toms can be very com­mon and be re­lated to many other fac­tors, in­clud­ing ge­net­ics, stress, diet and lone­li­ness.” Katie adds.

“In some cases, peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence de­pres­sion months be­fore they no­tice any other Parkin­son’s symp­toms though.”

5. ANXIETY

FEEL­INGS of un­ease, worry and fear can also strike dur­ing the on­set of Parkin­son’s. And this isn’t sim­ply a re­ac­tion to the diagnosis but is a key part of the dis­ease it­self, caused by changes in the brain.

Peo­ple with anxiety may ex­pe­ri­ence emo­tional symp­toms, in­clud­ing a sense of dread, con­stant worry or have dif­fi­culty con­cen­trat­ing. Phys­i­cal symp­toms can in­clude sweat­ing, a pound­ing or rac­ing heart (pal­pi­ta­tions), feel­ing breath­less, dizzi­ness or trem­bling.

6. TIRED­NESS

FEEL­INGS of fa­tigue that don’t go away, how­ever much you rest, can be one of the ear­li­est signs of Parkin­son’s.

“You may feel fit and able one day, and then too fa­tigued to do much the fol­low­ing day,” notes Katie. “If you’re work­ing, you may feel much more ex­hausted in the evenings than you used to, and may not have en­ergy to do any­thing else.”

7. TREMOR

“TREMOR is one of the main symp­toms of Parkin­son’s and is an un­con­trol­lable move­ment that af­fects a part of the body,” says Katie.

“Typ­i­cally, a Parkin­son’s tremor starts in the hand be­fore ‘spread­ing’ to the rest of the arm, or down to the foot on the same side of the body.”

While there is no cure for a tremor, there are ways to ef­fec­tively man­age the symp­toms, so it’s bet­ter to get a diagnosis as early as pos­si­ble.

8. SLOWNESS OF MOVE­MENT

EV­ERY­DAY tasks, such as pay­ing for items at the su­per­mar­ket or walk­ing to a bus stop, might take you longer.

“Slowness of move­ment – bradyki­ne­sia – may mean it takes you longer to do things,” says Katie. “For ex­am­ple, you might strug­gle with co-or­di­na­tion, your walk­ing speed may slow or it be­come more like a shuf­fle.”

9. DIF­FI­CULTY TURN­ING OVER IN BED

STIFF­NESS and ten­sion in the mus­cles, which can make it dif­fi­cult to move around and make fa­cial ex­pres­sions, is a re­ally com­mon symptom.

“Rigid­ity can stop mus­cles from stretch­ing and re­lax­ing, it can be par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able, for ex­am­ple, if you strug­gle to turn over or get in and out of bed,” ad­vises Katie.

“Be­cause it causes stiff mus­cles, in­flex­i­bil­ity or cramps, peo­ple with Parkin­son’s also no­tice it can make it hard to do things like writ­ing, do­ing up but­tons or ty­ing shoe laces.”

She ex­plains that when look­ing for signs of Parkin­son’s, a spe­cial­ist may ob­serve or ask you about your ex­pe­ri­ences with any of these move­ment is­sues.

“A sim­ple task they may ask you to do is walk around the room, so they can ob­serve if there is a re­duc­tion in the nat­u­ral swing of your arm.”

10. SMALL HANDWRITIN­G

PARKIN­SON’S causes changes in the brain, and be­cause of this, many peo­ple with the con­di­tion can find that their move­ments be­come smaller and less force­ful than be­fore.

A good ex­am­ple is that you may find your writ­ing is smaller than it pre­vi­ously was, or grad­u­ally gets smaller as you write.

If you’re con­cerned that you may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms of Parkin­son’s dis­ease, see your GP – if only to rule it out and put your mind at ease. Your GP will ask about the prob­lems you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing and may re­fer you to a spe­cial­ist for fur­ther tests.

■ For advice visit parkin­sons.org. uk or call Parkin­son’s UK’S free helpline on 0808 800 0303.

Warn­ing signs can in­clude changes in your writ­ing or hand tremors

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