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I'm a Doctor and Here are Signs You Have Parkinson's

Neurologist explains what to know about Parkinson's and signs that indicate you have it. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Parkinson's Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nervous system and symptoms oftentimes develop slowly over the course of a few years. According to the Parkinson's Foundation, "Nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson's disease (PD), which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease (or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). This is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030." Eat This, Not That Health spoke with Dr. Arif Dalvi, Neurologist and Physician Chief of the Movement Disorders Program at Delray Medical Center part of the Palm Beach Health Network who explained what to know about Parkinson's disease and symptoms to be aware of.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Risk Factors/Causes of Parkinson's

Family talking over dinner.

According to Dr. Dalvi, "There is most likely a genetic predisposition to Parkinson's Disease. That doesn't mean it's inherited but certain genetic make-up can be a predisposition to Parkinson's Disease. For example, the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) mutation in that gene predisposes someone to Parkinson's Disease. Other risk factors for Parkinson's Disease are environmental factors including exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. This is the result of a gene-environment interaction. Essentially, the gene loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger."


Misconceptions of Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease woman holding glass

Dr. Dalvi shares, "One of the biggest misconceptions of Parkinson's Disease is that everyone with it has tremors. But about 30 percent of patients with Parkinson's Disease don't have any tremors. Another misconception is that every tremor is Parkinson's Disease. In fact, the most common cause of tremor is Essential Tremor, not Parkinson's Disease. Essential Tremor is when a patient has an isolated tremor and no other Parkinson's Disease symptoms."


How to Diagnose Parkinson's Disease?

Closeup portrait of intellectual woman healthcare personnel with white labcoat, looking at full body x-ray radiographic image, ct scan, mri

Dr. Dalvi explains, "Patients with Parkinson's Disease can also have non-motor symptoms including sleep difficulties, anxiety, depression, memory impairment, as well as constipation or incontinence. To make a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, patients will usually get a CT scan or MRI of the brain. This does not make the diagnosis but is used to exclude other causes such as stroke in the brain. Specialized imaging DaTscan is not required to make a diagnosis but is supported if it's positive."




"Doctors look for rest tremor which is when they see the tremor in a patient's hands when they're resting their hands in their lap. About 70 percent of Parkinson's Disease patients have this sign," says Dr. Dalvi.


Slowness of Movement

Hands holing spoon

Dr. Dalvi states, "Slowness of movement, otherwise known as Bradykinesia is the defining sign of Parkinson's Disease. This is the sign that doctors look for in making the diagnosis."


Muscle Stiffness

Mature man sitting on sofa and holding his hand.

Dr. Dalvi explains, "Muscle stiffness especially on just one side of the body is a sign of Parkinson's Disease. It is a defining feature of Parkinson's Disease."


Balance and Walking Issues

Woman assisting an injured man on the running track at garden

Dr. Dalvi shares, "Difficulty with walking and balance issues are another sign of Parkinson's Disease."

According to the Parkinson's Foundation, other movement signs of the disease include:

"Festination: short, rapid steps taken during walking. May increase risk of falling and often seen in association with freezing.

Freezing: gives the appearance of being stuck in place, especially when initiating a step, turning or navigating through doorways. Potentially serious problem as it may increase risk of falling."


Watch for Signs of Changes in Facial Expression

Young woman outdoors checking her face in a round powder compact mirror.

Dr. Dalvi reveals, "People with Parkinson's can experience a change in facial expression. Patient expressions appear masked or not so visible."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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