If your loved one’s hand is shaking while engaged — holding a cup or writing with a pen, for example — she may instead have what’s called an “essential tremor,” not Parkinson’s disease.
3. Stiffness or soreness. Rigidity of the muscles in the arms, legs, and body makes it harder to move. Getting out of bed in the morning, or standing up from a chair, can be difficult. Patients with Parkinson’s disease make fewer spontaneous body gestures and lose facial expressiveness. When flexing a bicep and then straightening the arm out, there may be a jerkiness to the motion, as if the arm is catching on a cogwheel.
4. One side of body is out of whack. Whether it’s a trembling pinky finger or a strange stiffness in the foot, the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease almost always affect just one side at first. Later, sometimes after many years, they spread to the other side.
5. A change in penmanship. One of the first oddities that many Parkinson’s disease patients notice is that their handwriting has become smaller and cramped — an early hint of motor difficulties.
6. Sadness and/or low energy. Parkinson’s patients commonly develop depression before showing problems with movement. Experts believe the mood disorder is part of Parkinson’s disease itself, not simply a reaction to having the illness.
7. Loss of sense of smell. Very early on, people with Parkinson’s disease often lose their sense of smell because the neurodegenerative process affects the olfactory system. However, a reduced sensitivity to smells can also result from other causes.
8. Difficult to understand or hear speech. Parkinson’s disease can make the voice softer, muffled, and slurred.