Parkinson’s disease: The non-motor signs which ‘can appear in the earliest stages’

The Chase star Paul Sinha gives Parkinson's health update

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Parkinson’s UK says: “Non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s do not affect movement. They include other issues like mental health, memory problems and pain.” It says people with Parkinson’s can experience a range of mental health issues alongside their physical symptoms. Indeed, the charity says tremors, muscle stiffness and slowness of movement are all common early symptoms of Parkinson’s, “but there are also other signs to be aware of”.

The Cleveland Clinic says there are certain non-motor symptoms, meaning that they aren’t connected to movement and muscle control, which can signal the condition.

It says: “In years past, experts believed non-motor symptoms were risk factors for this disease when seen before motor symptoms.

“However, there’s a growing amount of evidence that these symptoms can appear in the earliest stages of the disease.

“That means these symptoms might be warning signs that start years or even decades before motor symptoms.”

It says possible symptoms are:

  • Autonomic nervous system symptoms, such as constipation and gastrointestinal problems, urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunctions
  • Depression
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Sleep problems such as restless legs syndrome
  • Trouble thinking and focusing.

The NHS explains that the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually develop gradually and are mild at first.

The health body says: “Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.”

It says people should see your GP if you’re concerned you may have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Although there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, early diagnosis is important so patients can receive the proper treatment and advice regarding care.

The NHS notes: “Most people with Parkinson’s start to develop symptoms when they’re over 50, although around one in 20 people with the condition first experience symptoms when they’re under 40.”

Parkinson’s UK says that around 145,000 people live with Parkinson’s in the UK, and that it is “the fastest growing neurological condition in the world”.

It explains that Parkinson’s develops when cells in the brain stop working properly and are lost over time. These brain cells produce a chemical called dopamine.

“Symptoms start to appear when the brain can’t make enough dopamine to control movement properly,” the charity says.

There are a number of different therapies and factors that can help in managing Parkinson’s.

The NHS explains: “Most people with Parkinson’s disease eventually need a medication called levodopa.

“Levodopa is absorbed by the nerve cells in your brain and turned into the chemical dopamine, which is used to transmit messages between the parts of the brain and nerves that control movement.”

It adds: “Most people with Parkinson’s disease are treated with medication, although a type of surgery called deep brain stimulation is used in some cases.”

The health body explains that this surgery is also available in specialist neuroscience centres around the UK, but it’s not suitable for everyone with the condition.

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