Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

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Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition that affects the part of the brain that controls movement. As a result, symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors, muscle stiffness, and difficulty with balance, movement, and coordination. Over time, you may have trouble walking and talking. 

Parkinson’s disease usually starts slowly and progresses with time. Since the symptoms are subtle at first, they can be mistaken for normal signs of aging.

Loved ones like family and friends are often first to notice the symptoms of Parkinson's disease before you notice them yourself. For example, someone may notice that you have difficulty rising from a chair or that your hand shakes. 

Signs & Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease affects neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain that produce a neurotransmitter, or brain chemical, called dopamine. People with Parkinson's experience movement difficulties because of lower dopamine levels.

The movement-related symptoms of Parkinson's disease are collectively referred to as "parkinsonism." Because other health conditions can also cause similar movement difficulties, they are sometimes misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s.

These are some of the movement-related difficulties associated with Parkinson’s disease:

  • Tremors: Parkinson’s can cause tremors in your fingers, hands, arms, legs, feet, jaw, or head. You are more likely to experience tremors when stressed or at rest and less likely to experience them when you are sleeping or moving your limbs.
  • Bradykinesia (slow movements): Your movements may slow down as your brain struggles to relay messages to other parts of your body. This can happen either suddenly or gradually and make daily tasks difficult. You may find it challenging to shower, get dressed, or rise from a chair.
  • Muscle stiffness: The muscles in any part of your body may become rigid and difficult to relax. Muscle stiffness can be painful and make it hard for you to move freely, resulting in a limited range of motion.
  • Speech changes: Your speech may become softer than usual and have fewer inflections, resembling a monotone. It may also speed up or become slurred. You may find yourself hesitating before you speak.
  • Difficulty writing: Writing may prove difficult, and your handwriting may become smaller and harder to read.
  • Lack of facial expressions: You may have fewer facial movements and expressions, like smiling or blinking.
  • Difficulty walking: Parkinson’s can make walking challenging. When you try to take a step, you may feel like your feet are glued to the ground. You may develop a shorter stride through shuffling steps and have trouble moving your arms naturally as you walk. Your feet may also drag on the floor.
  • Poor posture and balance: You may start to hunch over and develop a forward lean. This can impair your balance and make you more likely to fall while you’re walking.
  • Dystonia (muscle spasms and cramps): You may experience muscle spasms and cramps in various parts of your body. For instance, you may get severe cramps in your feet, or your toes may curl or clench with painful spasms.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually start on one side of the body and then gradually spread to the other side. However, the symptoms may continue to be more pronounced on one side.

Complications & Comorbidities

Parkinson’s disease also affects the production of norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter in the brain. This can impair the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls several autonomic functions in the body, like breathing, digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure. 

Therefore, low norepinephrine levels are responsible for many of the non-movement-related symptoms of Parkinson’s, like blood pressure irregularities and digestive difficulties.

These are some of the other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

  • Drooling and difficulty chewing and swallowing, which can lead to nutrition deficiencies
  • Sleep disruptions due to restless leg syndrome or acting out your dreams
  • Loss of smell, which can sometimes happen years before other symptoms appear
  • Low blood pressure, which can cause dizziness or fainting when you stand up
  • Urinary problems, like incontinence (loss of bladder control)
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy (lack of interest)
  • Impaired memory and thinking
  • Hallucinations 
  • Delusions
  • Weight changes
  • Vision changes

Frequently Asked Questions

If you suspect that you have Parkinson’s or have recently been diagnosed with it, you probably have many questions about the symptoms you are likely to experience. 

These are some of the frequently asked questions about Parkinson’s symptoms. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and ask them any questions about your health.

Will I Have All These Symptoms?

Everyone experiences Parkinson’s differently. You may or may not have all the symptoms of the condition, and they may not necessarily occur in the same order as somebody else’s symptoms. The intensity of the symptoms can also vary—they may be mild for some and intense for others.

How Quickly Do the Symptoms Progress?

The rate at which Parkinson’s disease progresses can vary from person to person. It can be hard to predict how fast it will progress. The progression of the disease is often classified into the following stages:

  • Early-stage: This stage typically has mild symptoms that do not interfere with your daily routine. You may feel tired or uneasy, have difficulty standing, or notice mild tremors.
  • Mid-stage: Your symptoms may start to worsen, and you may have difficulty with daily tasks. Tremors and muscle stiffness may become more prominent and spread to both sides of your body. Movement, balance, and coordination can become more difficult, and you may start falling.
  • Mid to late-stage: You may need help with standing and walking. You may also require full-time care if you live at home. 
  • Advanced stage: You may start to experience hallucinations or delusions. You may require a wheelchair to move around or need full-time nursing care should you become bedridden.
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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Is your trembling caused by parkinson’s — or a condition that mimics it? Health Essentials.

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