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  • Writer's pictureLorna Fedelem, MD

What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra. Symptoms generally develop slowly over the years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease.

The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications and surgery. While Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, disease complications can be serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from PD as the 14th cause of death in the United States.

10 Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

It can be hard to tell if you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Below are 10 signs that you might have the disease. No single one of these signs means that you should worry, but if you have more than one sign you should consider making an appointment to talk to your doctor.

1. Tremor

Have you noticed a slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand, or chin? A tremor while at rest is a common early sign of Parkinson’s disease.

2. Constipation

Do you have trouble moving your bowels without straining them every day? Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease and you should talk to your doctor.

3. Loss of Smell

Have you noticed you no longer smell certain foods very well? If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles, or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s.

4. Trouble Sleeping

Do you thrash around in bed or act out dreams when you are deeply asleep? Sometimes, your spouse will notice or will want to move to another bed. Sudden movements during sleep may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

5. Trouble Moving or Walking

Do you feel stiff in your body, arms, or legs? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem “stuck to the floor.”

6. Small Handwriting

Has your handwriting gotten much smaller than it was in the past? You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, such as letter sizes are smaller, and the words are crowded together. A change in handwriting may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease called micrographia.

7. A Soft or Low Voice

If there has been a change in your voice you should see your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes you might think other people are losing their hearing when really you are speaking more softly.

8. Masked Face

Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed, or mad look on your face, even when you are not in a bad mood? This is often called facial masking. If so, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s disease.

9. Dizziness or Fainting

Do you notice that you often feel dizzy when you stand up out of a chair? Feeling dizzy or fainting can be a sign of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson’s disease (PD).

10. Hunching Over

Are you not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning, or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Understanding Parkinson’s and the Importance of Awareness

Awareness is key as we work toward a world without Parkinson’s disease (PD). Everyday people in our PD community face obstacles — some anticipated, others new. Head to to get more information on what this incredible organization can do for you in Naples! Check out their upcoming event “A Step Forward – Overcoming Obstacles” with guest speaker Legendary Boxing Champion Sugar Ray Leonard on March 7!

If you have concerns that you or a loved one may have early signs of Parkinson’s Disease, make an appointment right away with your primary care physician to be evaluated. With certain treatments, your quality of life can be greatly improved!


Call and schedule a complimentary meet and greet with Dr. Fedelem.

9150 Galleria Ct., Suite 200, Naples, FL 34109 | | 239.580.6390


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