Common Symptoms of Parkinson Disease

Man losing balance while going down stairs.

You have Parkinson disease. This disease is caused by a loss of a chemical in your brain needed to help control movement and balance. For reasons that are not clear, cells that make this brain chemical stop working. This causes symptoms. This sheet tells you more about symptoms of Parkinson disease.

How symptoms may affect you

Parkinson disease symptoms vary for each person. You may have many severe symptoms. Or you may have only a few mild ones. Your symptoms may involve only one side of your body. Or they may involve both sides of your body. Also, your symptoms may change over time. And you may have different symptoms at different stages. Your symptoms may also get worse as your disease progresses.

Symptoms that affect movement and balance

These can include:

  • Tremor (shaking). This is a very common symptom. Most often, a hand or arm shakes on one or both sides of the body. Tremor may also affect other areas of the body, such as a leg, a foot, or the chin. Shaking may lessen when the affected part is used. It may worsen when at rest.

  • Rigidity. This refers to having stiff or tight muscles. This happens because the muscles don’t get the signal to relax. Rigidity may cause muscle pain and cramping. It may also cause a stooped posture.

  • Problems with balance. This can affect how well you stand and move. This can also increase your risk of falls.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms of Parkinson disease include speaking too softly and in a monotone, writing that gets shaky and smaller across the page, and trouble swallowing. They also include constipation, oily skin, and changes in blood pressure. Memory loss and other problems with thinking can occur later in the disease progression. Bradykinesia—or slow movement—can also occur. This can cause problems with actions such as getting out of chairs and beds. Walking may be limited to short, shuffling steps. You may feel "frozen," or unable to move. Blinking, facial expressions, swinging of your arms when walking, and other "unconscious movements" are also slowed down. Some people may have problems with their urination and others may also feel depressed.