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Early Stage Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by the nerves.  During the early stages of Parkinson’s, symptoms are mild and generally do not interfere with daily activities. Changes in posture, walking and facial expressions may occur, as well as tremors and other movement symptoms occurring on one side of the body only. 


Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease

Currently, there is no specific test to diagnose Parkinson's disease. A diagnosis is made by a neurologist and based on medical history, a review of symptoms, and neurological and physical exams.


Once diagnosed:

  • Consider seeing a specialist. Research shows that receiving care from a movement disorders specialist extends life expectancy and delays the more disabling stages of Parkinson's. Find a specialist here. 

  • Track symptoms and keep your doctor informed - this includes taking note of how the person reacts to medications and treatments, as well as how they feel at certain times of the day and after activities. 


Managing Parkinson’s Disease

Increase Activity. The more active someone is, the better the chances of staying active longer. Activity helps build reserve against lost physical function as the disease progresses. Include yoga, walking, biking, or swimming into the daily routine. Find a Parkinson’s boxing or dance program - both of which have been proven to help manage symptoms.

Consider Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapies to address symptoms.  Physical therapy can help with balance and movement.  An Occupational Therapist can offer techniques that make daily life easier.  A Speech-Language Pathologist may help improve speech and swallowing. problems.

Explore Medication Options with the doctor. Medications may help manage problems with walking, movement and tremor. Over time, the benefits of medicines frequently diminish or become less consistent.

Eat Healthily. Some foods may help ease certain symptoms, such as high fiber foods and drinking plenty of liquids. A balanced diet that includes high fiber foods, omega-3 fatty acids, and plenty of liquids can be beneficial for people with Parkinson's disease.

Stay Engaged.  Mental and social engagement is similar to physical fitness - the less you engage, the more likely you are to lose functioning. Get together with friends and family, join a club, or engage virtually with other.

Pay Attention To Walking. Since the sense of balance is often disturbed and can increase the risk of falls, it can be helpful when walking to:

  • Not move too quickly

  • Aim for the heel to strike the floor first

  • Look ahead and not down

  • Check posture, stand up straight, and don’t lean

  • Make a U-turn instead of pivoting when turning

  • Distribute weight evenly over both feet

  • Avoid carrying things

Try Alternative Therapies such as massage, Tai Chi, meditation, pet therapy, and relaxation therapies. These supportive therapies can help ease pain, fatigue and depression.

Seek Support. Living with a chronic illness and caring for someone with a chronic condition can be difficult. Talk with healthcare professionals about feeling persistently sad or hopeless. Support groups and forums can be a good source of support and information for people with Parkinson’s, as well as caregivers. A few to try are the Parkinson's Buddy Network, PD Conversations, and Smart Patients.

For additional information, visit the Parkinson's Foundation or Mayo Clinic.

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