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Parkinson's Disease - What Happens

Treatment may help control symptoms during the early stages of Parkinson's disease. It is usually started as soon as symptoms begin to affect your ability to work or do daily activities. As the disease progresses, drugs may become less effective.

Early stage

Tremor is usually the first symptom, appearing in just one arm or leg or on only one side of the body. With time, the tremor usually—but not always—spreads to both sides of the body. Joint pain, weakness, and fatigue may occur.

Moderate stage

As the disease gets worse, the person may have slow movement, stiff muscles, and poor coordination. He or she may have problems with tasks such as writing, shaving, or brushing teeth. Changes in handwriting are common.

Problems with posture and balance develop. A person with Parkinson's tends to walk in a stooped manner with quick, shuffling steps.

Advanced stage

After several years, as muscle stiffness and tremor increase, the person may become unable to care for himself or herself. He or she may be confined to a wheelchair or bed.

People who have taken medicine for several years may not only notice their symptoms getting worse but also may start to have other movement problems. These motor fluctuations can be reduced somewhat by making changes in the person's medicine, but they can be difficult to control and may further complicate treatment.

Dementia may develop in up to one-third of people who have late-stage Parkinson's disease.1Dementia symptoms may include disorientation at night, confusion, and memory loss. Treatment for Parkinson's disease can also contribute to this problem.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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