Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder that effects movement. While everyone with Parkinson's experiences the disease differently, there are common patterns of progression in the disease that are defined in stages. Identifying an individual’s stage can help doctors and caretakers control and improve symptoms:
In the earliest stage of Parkinson’s, the person may experience mild symptoms that usually affect one side of the body. This includes tremor and changes in posture, movement (walking) and facial expressions.
Symptoms worsen as the disease progresses. Daily tasks become problematic and time-consuming, as both sides of the body are affected. Tremor, rigidity, poor posture, speech and walking problems may be apparent.
Considered mid-stage, the person is still fully independent, but daily activities such as dressing and eating become more challenging. Loss of balance, falls and slowness of movements occur.
At this stage, symptoms are severe and disabling. The individual may be able to stand unassisted, but is unable to live alone and requires help with daily functions.
This is the last and most debilitating stage of Parkinson's disease. The person requires around-the-clock medical attention for all daily functions and to prevent injuries. He or she is bedridden or requires a wheelchair. The individual may also experience hallucinations, dementia and confusion.
Parkinson’s disease is difficult to diagnose because symptoms range from person-to-person. The most important thing you can do is if you think you have Parkinson’s disease, talk to your doctor as soon as symptoms arise. Although there is no cure for the disease, an early diagnosis may help slow down disease progression through effective treatment and medication.
Lovelace UNM Rehabilitation Hospital offers a two-part speech therapy program to help individuals with Parkinson's regain and maintain effective communication. Click here to learn more.