The mere mention of Parkinson’s is enough to strike fear into the hearts of most people with an aging parent or relative, but why? Why is Parkinson’s so scary? Well, for starters, few diseases are as mysterious and as unpredictable as Parkinson’s. Doctors like Joon Faii Ong work hard to treat symptoms as best they can. Knowing what to expect during the course of the disease can help everyone concerned make informed decisions about treatment and care. The symptoms will vary from person-to-person—however, this guide covers the most common early symptoms and progression rates for several types of Parkinson’s.

What are the Early Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

The early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) will vary from person to person, depending on which stage (if any) the patient has reached. It may progress slowly or quickly—it all depends on their genes, lifestyle habits, and how well they look after themselves.

Such early symptoms can include:

  • Minimal hand tremors that only happen in stressful situations. The shaking may stop when the person relaxes or takes a rest. The shakes in Parkinson’s disease affects one arm and not both;
  • Difficulty sleeping; difficulty falling asleep; waking up too early in the morning; frequent napping during the day; dozing off while watching TV, reading, or having conversations. This is because either dopamine (a chemical produced by nerve cells to help control muscle movements) levels are too high (hyper-dopaminergic) or low (hypo- dopaminergic). Dopamine controls the sleep cycle, and its production allows humans to stay awake for long hours and thus, plays a big part in one’s sleeping habit;
  • A stooped posture;
  • A shuffle when walking;
  • “Mask-like” facial expression (i.e., an impassive face); lack of facial expressions, or emotionless faces; flat voice tone;

About 80 percent of Parkinson’s patients will experience at least one of the above symptoms. About 40 percent to 60 percent of these patients will also experience muscle stiffness, difficulty initiating movement (akinesia), and balance problems. Some people may even start out with troubling memory loss that presents itself as trouble finding words or following conversations. How does Parkinson’s Disease Affect One’s Mood? Depression is common among PD patients—about 40% of them will suffer from depressive disorders. This is thought to be because the disease causes degeneration in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays an important role in mood control. How Does Parkinson’s Disease Affect Memory? Problems with memory are common in Parkinson’s patients (and to some extent when they get old). The link between PD and its effect on memory has not yet been proven; however, many researchers believe that it must be related to the loss of dopamine production in the brain. What Are Some Other Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease? While shaking may seem like an early sign of Parkinson’s disease (PD), other physical and emotional symptoms may arise during the later stages of the condition. Some of them may include:

  • A drooping of the eyelids;
  • Wrinkles around the corners of the mouth and on the forehead, which may give the person a sad appearance;
  • Speech problems, such as softer-sounding or slurred speech, or other times speaking more slowly than usual;