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Parkinson’s disease can manifest itself years in advance

Parkinson’s disease can manifest itself years in advance

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from: Judith Brown

Tremors are a typical symptom of Parkinson’s disease. However, there are also less obvious early warning signs that could indicate illness.

Hundreds of thousands suffer from Parkinson’s disease (also known as shaking paralysis) in Germany. It is one of the so-called neurodegenerative diseases and, like dementia, can announce itself years before. Diseases of the nervous system gradually kill the brain cells that produce dopamine and are responsible for movement. Another typical and visible symptom of Parkinson’s disease is resting trembling of the hands and feet. However, the disease can already make itself felt through less obvious early warning signs that have nothing to do with motor skills—years before a diagnosis is made.

Parkinson’s disease can manifest itself years earlier with less obvious symptoms

In Parkinson’s disease, brain cells responsible for movement die. © Mark Hunt / Imago

Neurons in the brain communicate with each other using specific messenger substances. Normally, dopamine supports nerve cells in ensuring that muscle movements and motor functions function properly. But in the case of Parkinson’s disease, when the brain cells responsible for producing dopamine die, the neurons are no longer able to properly coordinate movement sequences. Parkinson’s patients have increasingly limited mobility.

If the typical symptoms such as tremor occur, the disease has progressed so far that the affected neurons are largely shut down. Parkinson’s disease makes itself felt gradually and can occur years before, with few early warning signs. As these usually have nothing to do with motor skills and are less obvious, they are often not associated with disease. The following early symptoms can be indicative of the disease:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Digestive problems such as constipation
  • Impaired sense of smell and taste (can be tested with thyme)
  • Excessive muscle tension
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Modified handwriting
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Parkinson’s disease: Doctors can diagnose skin samples

If Parkinson’s disease is suspected, doctors can use a skin sample to determine whether a patient really has shaking paralysis. Diagnosis can be made at an early stage of the disease by detecting specific protein deposits in the nerve endings of the skin. On average, those affected are 60 years old at the time of diagnosis. Similar to Parkinson’s disease, other diseases can make themselves known early on. Signs of a stroke can appear, for example, ten years earlier.

This article only contains general information on the relevant health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. It does not in any way replace a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, our editors are not permitted to answer individual questions about clinical images.