This content was developed in partnership with the Parkinson’s Foundation.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is often thought of as a disease that only impacts movement, but Parkinson’s affects many systems in the body. Parkinson’s symptoms are different from person to person and usually develop slowly over time.
Research findings are varied as to whether Black and African Americans with PD experience a different rate of progression or symptom trends compared to other racial and ethnic groups. More participation by communities of color in research studies will help us better understand how PD — and treatments — specifically impact Black communities and people with PD.
Many people simply dismiss Parkinson’s symptoms as part of aging. Parkinson’s symptoms are incredibly varied and impact movement and non-movement functions, such as changes in thinking and sleep.
Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that controls movement, as well as our pleasure and emotional responses. With Parkinson’s, the cells in the brain that make dopamine start to die, and this causes increasing problems with movement.
Movement (often referred to as motor) symptoms include:
- Slow movement (called bradykinesia)
- Rigidity and stiffness
- Trouble with balance and falls
- Involuntary movement (called dyskinesia)
- Freezing: the temporary, involuntary inability to move
- Shuffling gait
People with PD also experience non-movement (also referred to as non-motor) symptoms. Though non-movement symptoms may not be outwardly visible, they are common and significantly impact well-being.
Combined, depression and anxiety are the number one factors impacting the overall mental health and wellbeing of people with PD. Some non-movement symptoms can appear years before someone receives a PD diagnosis, like loss of smell, constipation, and disrupted sleep.
Non-movement symptoms include:
- Cognitive changes or changes in the ability to think or remember
- Loss of sense of smell
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Sleep disorders
If you have not been diagnosed with PD, experiencing one symptom does not mean that you should worry. If you notice several symptoms, consider talking to your doctor.
Learn More About PD Symptoms on the Parkinson’s Foundation website:
- 10 Early Signs describes the symptoms that can appear early in Parkinson’s disease.
- Movement Symptoms and Non-Movement Symptoms provides in-depth information on all symptoms.
- Non-Motor Symptoms: What’s New? focuses on how to identify, treat and live optimally with non-movement symptoms.
- Recognizing Non-Motor Symptoms in PD Daniel Van Wamelen, MD, PhD, discusses non-movement symptoms and ways to address them.
This content was developed in partnership with the Parkinson’s Foundation. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease and find resources to help you live better with Parkinson’s, visit Parkinson.org or call the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).
- Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson.org
- Kessler, I.I. (1972). Epidemiologic studies of Parkinson’s disease: II. A hospital-based survey. American Journal of Epidemiology, 95(4), 308–318.
- Mayeux, R., Marder, K., Cote, L. J., Denaro, J., Hemenegildo, N., Mejia, H., Tang, M. X., Lantingua, R., Wilder, D. Gurland, B., & Hauser, A. (1995). The frequency of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease by age, ethnic group, and sex in northern Manhattan, 1988-1993. American Journal of Epidemiology, 142(8), 820–827.
- Xie, T., Laio, C., Lee, D., Yu, H., Padmanaban, M., Kang, W., Johnson, J., Alshaikh, J., Yuen, C., Burns, M., & Chiu, B.C.-H. (2021). Disparities in diagnosis, treatment, and survival between Black and White Parkinson patients. Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, 87, 7-12.