The 3 main symptoms of Parkinson's disease affect physical movement:
- tremor – shaking, which usually begins in the hand or arm and is more likely to occur when the limb is relaxed and resting
- slowness of movement (bradykinesia) – physical movements are much slower than normal, which can make everyday tasks difficult and result in a distinctive slow, shuffling walk with very small steps
- muscle stiffness (rigidity) – stiffness and tension in the muscles, which can make it difficult to move around and make facial expressions, and can result in painful muscle cramps (dystonia)
These main symptoms are sometimes referred to by doctors as parkinsonism as there can be causes other than Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease can also cause a range of other physical and mental symptoms.
- balance problems – these can make someone with the condition more likely to have a fall and injure themselves
- loss of sense of smell (anosmia) – sometimes occurs several years before other symptoms develop
- nerve pain – can cause unpleasant sensations, such as burning, coldness or numbness
- problems with peeing – such as having to get up frequently during the night to pee or unintentionally peeing (urinary incontinence)
- an inability to obtain or sustain an erection (erectile dysfunction) in men
- difficulty becoming sexually aroused and achieving an orgasm (sexual dysfunction) in women
- dizziness, blurred vision or fainting when moving from a sitting or lying position to a standing one – caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure
- excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
- swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) – this can lead to malnutrition and dehydration
- excessive production of saliva (drooling)
- problems sleeping (insomnia) – this can result in excessive sleepiness during the day
Cognitive and psychiatric symptoms
- depression and anxiety
- mild cognitive impairment – slight memory problems and problems with activities that require planning and organisation
- dementia – a group of symptoms, including more severe memory problems, personality changes, seeing things that are not there (visual hallucinations) and believing things that are not true (delusions)
When to seek medical advice
See your GP if you're concerned you may have symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Your GP will ask about your symptoms and your medical history to help them decide whether it's necessary to refer you to a specialist for further tests.