Signs of Parkinson’s can appear 10 years earlier. Know which

Known for involuntary tremors, Parkinson’s disease affects the brain’s ability to control body movements. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the condition affects 1% of the world population over 65 years and, in Brazil, this estimated group is 200 thousand people.

Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease on the planet, after Alzheimer’s. The reasons for the development of the condition are still unknown, but the most accepted hypothesis is that it arises from an interaction between genetic and environmental factors, such as exposure to toxic products.

The disease occurs due to the degeneration of cells located in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra. Cells located in this region of the midbrain produce dopamine, which helps carry nerve currents to the body. The lack or decrease of dopamine affects the patient’s movements, causing involuntary tremors and other symptoms.


initial signs

The progression of Parkinson’s is very variable and uneven among patients. In general, the disease has a slow, regular course with no rapid or dramatic changes. The most common symptoms are tremors, muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, changes in speech and postural instability.

The Associação Brasil Parkinson (ABP), a non-profit organization created in 1985 to assist people with the disease, warns that, in addition to the classic symptoms, the first signs of the condition can appear about 10 to 15 years before the disease sets in and, in in some cases, they mask the diagnosis of the disease, as they do not affect the motor condition.

These signs are called prodromal and may indicate the onset of the disease before specific symptoms appear. Are they:

  • Bowel removed;
  • loss of smell;
  • I’m changing;
  • Muscle pain;
  • Feeling dizzy when standing up;
  • Sadness and discouragement;
  • Impairment in concentration;
  • Reduction of facial expression;
  • Change in writing;
  • Difficulty moving;
  • Reduction of arm sway during gait.

The president of the ABP, Erica Tardelli, emphasizes the importance of identifying these early signs and considering them as an alert for Parkinson’s, especially when the person does not have tremors, but has muscle pain.

“We receive patients daily who underwent inadequate treatments for the disease for two or three years and who even underwent surgery due to the wrong diagnosis. The signs end up being diagnosed as orthopedic problems, when they can be caused by Parkinson’s stiffness”, explains Tardelli, who is a physiotherapist specializing in neurology.

However, the presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily mean that a person has Parkinson’s. But, if they are resistant to conventional treatments, it is advisable to consult a neurologist.

The diagnosis of the disease through neurological examinations is only possible when the person has the classic symptoms, which are slowness of movement associated with muscle rigidity, tremor or postural changes.

Disease evolution

Parkinson’s has no cure, however, it can and should be treated – in addition to fighting the symptoms, it is possible to delay its progress. For this, drugs are used combined with the practice of physical therapy, occupational therapy and physical activity. Surgery may be necessary in some cases.

As a way of making the population aware of the early signs to be considered in the diagnosis, the ABP, in partnership with the Parkinson’s Disease teaching and research program at Hospital das Clínicas de São Paulo, prepared an e-book with information on signs and disease symptoms.

“The attempt is to reduce the time it takes the patient to receive the diagnosis and start the correct treatment. The material is based on scientific reviews and seeks to draw attention to the disease”, says the specialist.

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