Early Onset Parkinson’s Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease, or PD, tends to be diagnosed in those over age 60. It can be a challenging disease to diagnose, because in the early stages, the symptoms may be very general and subtle. PD tends to be diagnosed later in life, as some patients can have symptoms for years before knowing what is wrong. If you are diagnosed before age 50, you are considered to have early onset PD. Some patients are diagnosed as early as their twenties, and in rare cases, children and teens can develop this disease. Some of the early-onset Parkinson’s symptoms are the same symptoms that older individuals get, and some are specific to early-onset PD.

Uncontrolled Movement

While there is still much to learn about Parkinson’s disease, what is known is that the structure in the brain that produces dopamine is damaged. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to carry nerve impulses from your brain to the area of your body that you wish to move. Without the right level of dopamine present your movements will be sporadic. This is called dystonia, and it is very common in early onset cases says the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Your muscles may uncontrollably twitch and contract. Your body may move in various ways without your control. You may have changes to your posture such as turning your feet in and developing a rounded upper back or hunched posture. With Parkinson’s disease there is a tendency to walk by taking quick, short steps and walking on the toes.

Bradykinesia

Bradykinesia is a medical term used to describe slower than normal movement. While PD can cause jerking movements as mentioned above, it can also inhibit movement and make it hard to initiate movement. This is also referred to as “freezing.” While walking, you may all of a sudden freeze and be unable to move for a few moments. If you start to lose your balance, you may be unable to lift your arm up to balance yourself or break a fall. This inability to move can also affect the facial muscles, making it hard for you to show expression. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation states that every person experiences the symptoms and the progression of the disease differently, which makes PD very hard to accurately diagnose.

Memory Loss

According to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, the symptoms that are present in early onset can be the exact same ones that are present in an older individual. However, cognitive changes such as problems with memory and difficulty maintaining balance are often seen in early-onset patients. In addition, if the facial muscles are affected, you may find it hard to chew your food and swallow. Working with a speech therapist in the early stages can help you lean to minimize these difficulties. There are many other symptoms that can be present with PD. This includes fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, constipation and pain. One possible indication that your symptoms are due to Parkinson’s is that they tend to start or are worse on one side of the body.

About this Author

Lori Newell of Living Well Yoga and Fitness holds a master’s degree in health promotion. She is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor. Newell has taught classes for the general public and those with chronic illness for 25 years. She has four books and writes for many sites and magazines, including the “International Journal of Yoga Therapy.”