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Health Information Signs of Parkinson's Disease

Is It Parkinson’s? Know the Signs

Parkinson’s disease has some well-known faces — people like actor Michael J. Fox and the late Pope John Paul II.

But would you recognize Parkinson’s if it struck closer to home?

“The hallmark of Parkinson’s disease is tremor, which is a rhythmic shaking,” says Christopher Goetz, MD, director of the Movement Disorders Center at RUSH. “When that is present, the patient and primary care provider are going to suspect Parkinson’s.”

Shaking, which usually occurs while an arm or leg is at rest, often starts on one side of the body.

But symptoms may be less obvious and are sometimes mistakenly attributed to arthritis or aging. “For example, a patient seems to get slower, has more difficulty with balance or struggles with tasks like buttoning buttons,” Goetz says.

Other signs include changes in posture or facial expression, or a shuffling walk.

And while you might think of Parkinson’s as an older person’s disease, it can develop in younger people too, as was the case with Michael J. Fox. Of the one million diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, 15 percent are younger than 50.

Early Parkinson’s signs are subtle and gradual, but in time they can start to affect daily living, making early diagnosis important. Currently there is no cure, but treatments can dramatically relieve symptoms. And leading researchers at RUSH and around the world are continually working to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease.

If you or a family member are exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and you would like to schedule an appointment with the experts at RUSH, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).

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