Michael J. Fox has always been a poster boy. With his youthful good looks and intelligent charm, he rose to fame playing a sassy Republican teenage son of ex-hippie parents in the TV sitcom Family Ties. In the blockbuster Back to the Future film trilogy, he was a time traveler with perfect comedic timing. And in a later sitcom, Spin City, he made us wish all politicians were as personable as his Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty.
In 1998, Fox became a poster boy for another reason: He went public with...
The disease causes motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms. Motor symptoms are those that have to do with how you move. The most common one is tremor.
Tremor, or shaking, often in a hand, arm, or leg, occurs when you're awake and sitting or standing still (resting tremor), and it gets better when you move that body part.
Tremor is often the first symptom that people with Parkinson's disease or their family members notice.
At first the tremor may appear in just one arm or leg or only on one side of the body. The tremor also may affect the chin, lips, and tongue.
As the disease progresses, the tremor may spread to both sides of the body. But in some cases the tremor remains on just one side.
Emotional and physical stress tends to make the tremor more noticeable. Sleep, complete relaxation, and intentional movement or action usually reduce or stop the tremor.
Although tremor is one of the most common signs of Parkinson's, not everyone with tremor has Parkinson's. Unlike tremor caused by Parkinson's, tremor caused by other conditions gets better when your arm or hand is not moving and gets worse when you try to move it.
The most common cause of non-Parkinson's tremor is essential tremor. It's a treatable condition that is often wrongly diagnosed as Parkinson's.
Other common symptoms
Besides tremor, the most common symptoms include:
Stiff muscles (rigidity) and aching muscles. One of the most common early signs of Parkinson's is a reduced arm swing on one side when you walk. This is caused by rigid muscles. Rigidity can also affect the muscles of the legs, face, neck, or other parts of the body. It may cause muscles to feel tired and achy.
Slow, limited movement, especially when you try to move from a resting position. For instance, it may be hard to get out of a chair or turn over in bed.
Weakness of face and throat muscles. It may get harder to talk and swallow. You may choke, cough, or drool. Speech becomes softer and monotonous. Loss of movement in the muscles in the face can cause a fixed, vacant facial expression, often called the "Parkinson's mask."
Difficulty with walking and balance. A person with this disease is likely to take small steps and shuffle with his or her feet close together, bend forward slightly at the waist, and have trouble turning around. Balance and posture problems may cause frequent falls. But these problems usually don't happen until later on.
FreezingFreezing, a sudden, brief inability to move. It most often affects walking.
A small number of people have symptoms on only one side of the body that never move to the other side.