Symptoms of Parkinson's disease 

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease usually develop gradually and are mild at first.

There are many different symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, but the order in which these develop and their severity is different for each individual with the condition.

Some of the more common symptoms are described below, although it is unlikely that a person with Parkinson's disease would experience all or most of these.

Main symptoms

The three main symptoms of Parkinson's disease affect physical movement:

  • tremor – uncontrollable shaking, which usually begins in the hand or arm and is more likely to occur when the limb is at rest
  • slowness of movement (bradykinesia) – where physical movements are much slower than normal, which can make everyday tasks difficult and can result in a distinctive slow, shuffling walk with very small steps
  • muscles stiffness (rigidity) – stiffness and tension in the muscles, which can make it difficult to move around and make facial expressions and can result in painful muscle cramps (dystonia)

These main symptoms are sometimes referred to by doctors as 'Parkinsonism'.

Other symptoms

Parkinson's disease can also cause a range of other physical and mental symptoms.

Physical symptoms

  • balance problems, which can make someone with the condition more likely to have a fall and injure themselves
  • loss of sense of smell (anosmia), which sometimes occurs several years before other symptoms develop
  • nerve pain, which can cause unpleasant sensations such as burning, coldness or numbness
  • problems with urination, such as having to get up frequently during the night to urinate or urinary incontinence (the unintentional passing of urine)
  • constipation
  • erectile dysfunction in men – an inability to obtain or sustain an erection
  • sexual dysfunction in women – difficulty becoming sexually aroused and achieving an orgasm
  • dizziness, blurred vision or fainting when moving from a sitting or lying position to a standing one, caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure
  • excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • swallowing difficulties (dysphagia), which can lead to malnutrition and dehydration
  • excessive production of saliva (drooling)

Mental symptoms

  • depression and anxiety
  • problems sleeping (insomnia), which can result in excessive sleepiness during the day
  • mild cognitive impairment – slight memory problems and problems with activities that require planning and organisation
  • dementia a group of symptoms including more severe memory problems, personality changes, visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are not true)

When to seek medical advice

See your GP if you are concerned that you may have symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and your medical history to help them decide whether it's necessary to refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Read more about diagnosing Parkinson's disease.

Page last reviewed: 02/04/2014

Next review due: 02/04/2016