Aches and pains are a normal part of aging. But they may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease, a disorder that affects movement and balance. It’s triggered by the loss of dopamine, a brain chemical that controls how you move.
The classic signs are trembling in the hands, arms, legs or face; stiff muscles; balance problems; or slowed movement.
The changes are subtle but worsen over time and can lead to difficulty doing daily activities, such as using a fork and knife, writing or dressing. Parkinson’s starts at age 60 on average. Having an immediate family member with the disease can raise your risk.
Parkinson’s disease can be difficult to diagnose, so talk with your healthcare provider if you suspect you have the condition. Your provider will likely do a medical history and neurological exam. He or she may also recommend physical or speech therapies.
There’s no cure for Parkinson’s, but medicine can ease symptoms.
Medication. The drug levodopa works for most people. The drug amantadine can help reduce fatigue and tremor in early stages and can improve movement in those who have more advanced disease.
Surgery. In deep brain stimulation, a surgeon implants a small, battery-operated device in the brain. It sends out electrical impulses that block signals that cause symptoms.
Joining a support group, such as those sponsored by the National Parkinson Foundation, can also help newly diagnosed patients.