Monthly Archives: March 2013

10 Early Signs of Parkinson’s That Doctors Often Miss

10 Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease That Doctors Often Miss

By , senior editor
100% helpful

Let’s be honest: A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be pretty unnerving. In fact, an April 2011 survey by the National Parkinson’s Foundation revealed that people will avoid visiting the doctor to discuss Parkinson’s even when experiencing worrisome symptoms, such as a tremor.

The problem, however, is that waiting prevents you from beginning treatment that — although it can’t cureParkinson’s — can buy you time. “We now have medications with the potential to slow progression of the disease, and you want to get those on board as soon as possible,” says Illinois neurologist Michael Rezak, M.D., who directs the American Parkinson’s Disease Association National Young Onset Center.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) occurs when nerve cells in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine begin to die off. When early signs go unnoticed, people don’t discover they have Parkinson’s until the disease has progressed. “By the time you experience the main symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as tremor and stiffness, you’ve already lost 40 to 50 percent of your dopamine-producing neurons. Starting medication early allows you to preserve the greatest possible number of them,” Rezak explains.

Here, 10 often-missed signs that can help you identify and get early treatment for Parkinson’s.

1. Loss of sense of smell

This is one of the oddest, least-known, and often earliest signs of Parkinson’s disease, but it almost always goes unrecognized until later. “Patients say they were at a party and everyone was remarking on how strong a woman’s perfume was, and they couldn’t smell it,” says Rezak.

Along with loss of smell may come loss of taste, because the two senses overlap so much. “Patients notice that their favorite foods don’t taste right,” Rezak says.

Dopamine is a chemical messenger that carries signals between the brain and muscles and nerves throughout the body. As dopamine-producing cells die off, the sense of smell becomes impaired, and messages such as odor cues don’t get through. Some researchers consider this change so revealing that they’re working to develop a screening test for smell function.

Previous Page2 3 4 5Next Page

Was this article helpful?


About the Author User - Melanie Haiken
Send a Hug or Prayer
Melanie Haiken, senior editor

Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for’s coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions when she was health editor of Parenting magazine…

Read full bio

What to expect when caring for someone with dementia

Hi lqueenlaura,

Here’s a popular line of thinking among dementia-care family members: “Nobody can do it as well as I can.” Especially if you live with the person you’re caring for, it’s probably true that no one else knows him or her as well as you do. This allows you to provide high quality-care that’s attentive to likes and dislikes and attuned to reading moods — plus you’ve probably established a comfortable rhythm for the day. The catch is this: You’ll need more and more help as time passes; you can’t do it all alone.

>>Try these 3 tactics to help you set aside your superhero cape periodically.