Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on August 26, 2021
3 min read

Parkinson’s disease may be something you don’t notice suddenly. Early symptoms can be mild. You may feel tired or uneasy. You may notice your hands or other body parts shaking slightly, or find it hard to stand. Your speech might become softer or slurred, or your handwriting looks different or smaller. You may forget a word or a thought and feel depressed or anxious. You may have sleep problems such as a rapid eye movement (REM) sleep disorder. Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep.

Usually, your friends and family may spot the changes before you do. It might be easier for them to notice your tremors, stiff movements, or lack of expression on your face.

As your symptoms grow, you might have trouble with everyday activities. But most people with Parkinson's can manage the condition, often with medications.

Stiff muscles. Most people with Parkinson’s have some rigidness that makes it hard to move parts of the body. That’s because your muscles can’t relax normally. This may also cause you pain.

Tremor. This uncontrolled shaking usually starts in the hands and arms, although it can happen in the jaw or feet, too. You often notice your thumb and forefinger rubbing together, a pill rolling tremor as it is sometimes called, especially when you’re resting your hand or feeling stressed.

In the beginning, tremor usually affects only one side of your body or one limb. Over time, the shaking may spread to other parts of your body, although not everyone gets tremor.

Slow movements. Actions like walking, getting out of bed, and even talking become harder and slower. Doctors call this bradykinesia. It happens because your brain’s signal to specific parts of the body slows down. Bradykinesia can give your face an expressionless, mask-like look.

Changes in walking. A common early sign is that your arm or arms stop swinging naturally when you walk. Your steps might become short and shuffling. You may have trouble walking around corners, or feel as if your feet are glued to the floor.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder, which means your symptoms get more serious over time. It can affect your movements as well as things like your vision, sleep, and mental health. A person with Parkinson’s can get different symptoms at different times than someone else with the same condition. They include:

  • Trouble with balance
  • Forward or backward lean that can cause falls
  • Stooped posture, with bowed head and slumped shoulders
  • Head shaking
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble peeing or pooping
  • Tiredness
  • Drooling
  • Skin problems, such as dandruff
  • Difficulty swallowing and chewing
  • Trouble having an erection or orgasm
  • Lightheadedness or fainting when standing up
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Dementia, or trouble with thinking and reasoning
  • Loss of smell
  • Too much sweating

Having these symptoms doesn't always mean you have Parkinson's. It could be something else. See your doctor if you notice changes in yourself. If you might have Parkinson's, working with a movement-disorders specialist could help.