Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

Because Parkinson’s disease affects the way your brain controls your body’s movement, the first symptoms usually recognized are Motor (or Movement) Symptoms. Motor symptoms usually first appear only on one side of the body. Over time, the other side of the body tends to develop Motor Symptoms, as well. As the disease progresses, other symptoms may appear.  It is important to note that not everyone diagnosed with Parkinson's disease will develop each of the symptoms listed below.

Motor Symptoms -- Non-motor Symptoms -- What Can I Expect My Life to be likeWho is at RiskNewly Diagnosed -- Staying Informed


  • Tremor - The Motor Symptom most associated with Parkinson’s disease is tremor, which occurs often in only one hand, foot, arm, or leg. It is important to note that not all tremors are due to Parkinson’s disease
  • Rigidity - Generally known as stiffness, rigidity may cause muscle cramps and soreness, loss of arm swing when walking, smaller handwriting (also called Micrographia), decreased facial expression (also called Hypomimia), and decreased dexterity and coordination
  • Bradykinesia - Slowness of movement
  • Postural Instability - Imbalance
  • Other Motor Symptons -
    • Shuffling of the feet
    • Bending forward (also called Stooped Posture)
    • Walking issues may develop over time and mobility may become limited


  • Muscle Weakness - Internal muscles may have trouble functioning. Some examples include weakened throat muscles, causing problems with swallowing, choking, drooling, and voice changes. Parkinson’s disease may also affect the gastrointestinal muscles, causing constipation, and the bladder muscles, causing urinary frequency, urgency or control issues (also called incontinence)
  • Other Symptoms -
    • Decreased or complete loss of sense of smell (also called Anosmia)
    • Oily skin
    • Dandruff
    • Excessive sweating
    • Low blood pressure upon standing (also called Orthostatic Hypotension)
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Constipation
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • Changes in memory and intellectual function

What Can I Expect My Life to be Like with Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease affects each person differently. In addition, some people who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease actually have a related condition that may have additional symptoms. The most important fact to remember is that people do not die from Parkinson’s disease. Most people with the typical manifestations of Parkinson’s disease will live out their normal life span. Appropriate management, which includes medication and exercise, enable most people to maintain a good quality of life for many years.

Take an active role in controlling the disease and be sure to work with your neurologist to find the right treatment options for you. It is important that you have regular check-ups with your neurologist as your treatment regimen will need to be adjusted as the disease progresses.

Who is at Risk?

For the majority of people, the actual cause of their Parkinson’s disease is not known. However, numerous studies have shown that exposure to pesticides and industrial solvents can increase your risk for Parkinson’s disease. If you would like to learn more about these individual risks, please read some of our published papers on the environmental risk factors of Parkinson’s disease.

Approximately 2-3% of Parkinson’s patients have a genetic mutation that may predispose them to Parkinson’s disease. We continue to expand our genetic database to track these genetic modifications and to understand how they influence disease progression. To learn more about these genetic modifications, please visit our genetic mutations database

Newly Diagnosed

Every other month Parkinson’s Institute and Clinical Center hosts a Newly Diagnosed Seminar in which patients, caregivers and family members ask questions of our movement disorder specialists. This gives patients additional time with a doctor in order to better understand the complexities of Parkinson’s disease. Please click here to view the Monthly Educational Program schedule and RSVP online.  

If you would like more information on sleep disturbances, urinary issues, the importance of exercise, current research, etc. please view the videos of our past educational seminars. Each seminar has available handouts and a video of the presentation. Click here for the past event video library

Participation in a clinical trial often gives newly diagnosed the opportunity to participate in the development of new treatment options. This participation can be very powerful. One study participant said, “Psychologically I feel like participating in research is like striking back at the disease.” Click here for more information on clinical trials.

Stay Informed and Get Involved!

With each passing day, researchers are exploring promising new drugs and technologies for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Check out the current Clinical Trials at  Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center and learn more about Parkinson’s disease with these Resources.  Attending classes at Parkinsons's Institute and Clinical Center is another excellent way to get involved.

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