Parkinson’s disease is a progressive illness that leads to a gradual loss of motor control. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are caused by the destruction of special dopamine producing cells in the brain, which in turn affects the central nervous system.
The underlying cause of the disease is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
The most common form of Parkinson’s disease mostly affects people aged 60 and above, but there is another form of Parkinson’s that affects people aged between 21 and 50, so what are the early onset Parkinson’s symptoms?
Early Onset Parkinson’s
Early onset Parkinson’s disease is fairly rare and of all cases of Parkinson’s, less than 10% are diagnosed in patients below the age of 50, but unlike the more common form of the disease, this type is very often hereditary.
However, despite the fact early onset Parkinson’s disease affects younger people, the symptoms are very similar and the outcome is the same.
Early Onset Parkinson’s Symptoms
One of the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is the gradual loss of movement in various parts of the body. It may begin as a slight delay in one or more limbs.
Coordination will begin to suffer and reflexes will slow down as the disease slowly takes hold in the brain.
Legs might begin to ache for no apparent reason and a simple task such as holding a fork or knife will suddenly become a challenge.
As well as the physical effects of Parkinson’s disease, there are other cognitive changes to look out for.
Memory is often affected, but other symptoms include unexplained fatigue, insomnia, aches and pains, and mood swings.
The problem is that these symptoms are all vague enough to be indicators of other illnesses, which is why Parkinson’s often goes undetected in younger people, but if the cause is Parkinson’s, problems typically affect one side of the body more than the other.
Early onset Parkinson’s disease causes the nerve signals between the brain and the muscles to slow down or cease working entirely, which is what causes the muscle tremors and jerky movements characteristic of the disease.
Movement will slow down, a process known as “bradykinesia“, or it will periodically freeze up.
Problems with movement and coordination often cause a shuffling gait in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Instead of striding out normally, the person will take small steps, characteristically leaning forwards and perhaps freezing mid gait.
When the facial muscles are affected, Parkinson’s disease causes problems with eating and drinking. Speech can also be affected, causing the patient to slur their words and find it hard to form a sentence.
Some patients find it hard to express their emotions when the facial muscles stop working, which can lead to the classic symptom of Parkinson’s facial masking whereby the patient’s face is frozen in a permanently blank expression, irrespective of what they are thinking or saying.