April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and 11th April marks World Parkinson’s Day. During this month, Parkinson’s Australia is promoting the importance of identifying some of the lesser-known early warning signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Often people only associate Parkinson’s with a tremor of the hands, trouble moving or walking and loss of balance. However, symptoms can start out with something small, something often passed off as minor or ‘nothing to worry about’ – but there are many symptoms and signs that could mean someone might have Parkinson’s. No one sign is a reason to worry, but if someone has a few of the following signs it’s a good idea to go and speak with a doctor.
So, what are some of the early signs?
There’s a few other than the commonly aforementioned ones. Handwriting can get noticeably smaller – the words written on a page starting to look different, smaller letters, crowded words and lines.
Loss of smell, known as hyposmia, can be an early sign of Parkinson’s and is very often an unrecognised symptom. Interestingly the loss of smell of foods like bananas, dill pickles and liquorice as reported by the Parkinson’s Foundation in the US, have been specifically identified as a sign of Parkinson’s and should be investigated further.
There can be a change in the volume of your voice, becoming unusually softly spoken, which is caused by the changes in the function of muscles in your face, throat, and mouth.
Thrashing about in your sleep and acting out your dreams in deep sleep (REM sleep disorder), constipation and feeling dizzy on a regular basis is another symptom not to pass off as ‘nothing’ and can be linked to Parkinson’s.
Persistent pain in many forms, such as muscle tightness, stiffness or a frozen shoulder can be an early sign of Parkinson’s. Many people diagnosed with Parkinson’s can remember experiencing persistent pain for several years prior to their diagnosis or the onset of more ‘obvious’ symptoms. The pain is often described as muscular pain and can often appear on a single side. It is important to note that not every ache and pain is a sign of Parkinson’s, but to be aware of the possible connections and be proactive about seeking medical attention for any noteworthy persistent pain.
Of course, it is not our intention to cause unnecessary worry or concern. But we do want to raise awareness that Parkinson’s can affect people in different ways. It is also not always a condition that just affects people well into their senior years, and it does not discriminate between men and women.
Being aware and possibly recognising the less common early signs means taking control and seeking advice sooner rather than later. Early diagnosis of Parkinson’s, followed up by the commencement of a treatment plan, means controlling symptoms more effectively in the long run.
If you think you, a family member or friend may have Parkinson’s and would like more information, call the Infoline 1800 644 189 (Monday to Friday, business hours). Your call will be diverted to the state/territory Parkinson’s organisation from where you are calling, and a member of the team there will be able to advise further and equip you with questions to ask your doctor.
Parkinson’s Australia is a federation of member states and territories including Parkinson's ACT, Parkinson's Queensland, Parkinson's SA & NT, Parkinson's Tasmania, and Parkinson's Western Australia. The Infoline also diverts to Parkinson’s NSW and Fight Parkinson’s (formerly Parkinson’s Victoria).