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5 Signs You Have Parkinson's Like Michael J. Fox

Here’s what Parkinson’s disease feels like.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Nearly one million people in the US are living with Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that has no cure (although treatment can be highly effective). Actor Michael J. Fox, 61, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's at age 29, and launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research in 2000. "The attention Michael has brought to Parkinson's research has sparked a complete revolution," says the foundation's chief executive officer, Todd Sherer. "Pharmaceutical companies are more focused than ever on finding treatments quickly, and curing PD is job one for some of the best minds in neuroscience." Here are five signs of Parkinson's disease, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



Parkinson's disease woman holding glass

Tremors are a common sign of Parkinson's, but doctors recommend getting fully evaluated to rule out other issues. "See a neurologist specializing in movement disorders and who can properly evaluate, diagnose, and treat tremors," says neurologist Zoltan Mari, MD. "Part of that could be eliminating factors that can drive exaggerated physiological tremor, such as high thyroid hormone levels, so thyroid function tests (TFTs) should be sent off to the lab, for example."


Slowness of Movement


Slowness of movement, known as bradykinesia, is another common sign of Parkinson's. "Using a wrist-worn device that continuously monitors body movements, a US study has found 85% of people with Parkinson's disease experience  bradykinesia — abnormally slow movements — in the morning," says Steve Bryson, PhD.



Mature man sitting on sofa and holding his hand.

People with Parkinson's often experience muscle stiffness that can be painful. "Rigidity, or stiffness, is one of the most common symptoms of Parkinson's," says Rachel Dolhun, MD, a movement disorders specialist at The Michael J. Fox Foundation. 


Changes In Gait

man walking with dog on trail with backpack on
Shutterstock / MarcosFernandez

Changes in gait could be an early sign of Parkinson's, according to experts. "Changes in gait and cognition precede a diagnosis of idiopathic (without known cause) Parkinson's disease, and may occur earlier than typical non-motor symptoms," says Catarina Silva, MSc. "Identifying individuals during the prodromal (early) period that precedes motor symptoms could be of great use for clinical studies seeking new therapies to prevent or delay disease progression."


Signs of Aging In the Eyes

Mature white-haired woman checking eye wrinkles in front of mirror.

Research shows that signs of aging in the retina could be tied to higher risk of Parkinson's disease. "People with Parkinson's disease (PD) have a number of visual impairments, including changes in contrast sensitivity, color vision, and object and motion processing deficits," says Nicolás Cuenca, PhD. "We studied retinas of PD individuals to assess the molecular and morphological changes in order to find possible biomarkers of the disease that can be used as predictors."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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