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Nearly one million people in the United States alone are currently living with Parkinson’s disease, and about 60,000 people are newly diagnosed each year. Many signs of Parkinson’s start out mild and often go ignored until the disease has progressed. Some symptoms, such as tremors (a.k.a. muscle shakes) can happen even to perfectly healthy people and may go unnoticed for a while. Today, we’re discussing how Parkinson’s is diagnosed and what signs to look for if you think you might have Parkinson’s.
How to Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease
Because there are many potential nervous and mobility disorders that can affect adults as they age, diagnosing Parkinson’s can be a complex task. There is no single test for Parkinson’s, and most doctors will run many different assessments and tests in order to rule out other potential conditions before delivering a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
The most important factors in diagnosing Parkinson’s will be your symptoms and your medical history, including whether or not you have a family history of Parkinson’s. Before your doctor’s appointment, try making a list of the frequency and severity of potentially related symptoms: tremors in your arms, trouble writing or speaking, struggling to pull up your men’s elastic waist pants due to muscle stiffness, etc.
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Your doctor may also order other imaging tests — including MRIs, brain ultrasounds and PET scans — in order to rule out other conditions. In rare cases, the doctor might order a specific single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scan called a dopamine transporter scan (DaTscan), which can help confirm that you have Parkinson’s.
As part of the diagnostic process, your doctor might also put you on a medication called Carbidopa-Levodopa. Taking this medication in sufficient doses for a long enough period of time has been known to relieve Parkinson’s symptoms. If the medication has that effect on you, then that will help to confirm diagnosis. The drug needs to build in your system for days or even weeks to have a noticeable effect. So if your doctor prescribes it, you need to be sure to take the full doses on schedule.
In many cases, Parkinson’s is first diagnosed by a physician or internist who the patient seeks out for help with motor function issues. However, many people go on to get the diagnosis confirmed by a neurologist or another specialist who has been trained in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s.
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Signs of Parkinson’s Disease
At this point, you are probably wondering what signs of Parkinson’s you need to be on the lookout for. The following symptoms can all be signs of the early stages of Parkinson’s. You should immediately see your doctor for an assessment if you have been experiencing any of them, especially if they have been ongoing for some time or you have been experiencing more than one symptom.
- Tremors: These tremors occur in a limb at rest, usually the hand or arm.
- Rigid, stiff muscles: The muscles stiffen up involuntarily, limiting your range of motion. This may occur in the arms, legs and/or torso.
- Posture instability or balance impairment: You struggle to stand or walk upright, which may result in a stooped posture or trouble with falls.
- Bradykinesia: This term refers to slowed movement, which makes everyday tasks such as walking or standing up difficult.
- Loss of automatic movements: Over time, you will struggle with involuntary movements, such as blinking your eyes or smiling.
- Speech changes: Your speech may become soft or slurred and will often lose its inflections as well.
- Writing changes: Your handwriting may become small, cramped and difficult to read.
Symptoms usually begin on one side of the body only, and often remain more severe on that side even after the entire body begins showing symptoms. Most diagnoses of Parkinson’s are made when at least two and often more of these symptoms are present.
When Parkinson’s is in the early stages, items such as men’s adaptive clothing and adaptive clothing for women will make it easier for them to maintain independence and go through daily life. At Silverts, we offer a range of clothing for people with Parkinson’s to help suit a variety of needs. Order more than $20 worth of products and you’ll get free shipping on your U.S. order!