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5 symptoms of Parkinson's Disease that mimic old age

Is it old age, or something more serious?

You're moving around slower than you used to. Your joints seem a bit stiff. And your flexibility is practically non-existent. While these issues are commonly associated with getting older, it's normal to wonder if they could mean something more serious.

Many early symptoms of Parkinson's Disease are similar to those of ordinary aging. It's usually diagnosed around age 60 and is the second most common neurodegenerative disease--affecting as many as 10 million individuals worldwide.

So before you write your aches and pains off as simple wear and tear, it's important to take a closer look. As April is Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month, ComForCare wants to share a few signs and symptoms you or a loved one could be in the early stages of Parkinson's Disease.

Muscle stiffness. Arthritis is common in older adults, and usually involves hand, knee, or hip joints. It's also common to have an arthritic lower back, as the discs between the bones in the spine can shift. But according to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, Parkinson's-related stiffness and pain typically affects the muscles and can appear in some ways, like muscle contractions that lead to abnormal posture (such as an inward turning of the foot) to numbness or tingling.

Changes in walking and balance. Not being able to keep up with your grandkids is normal as the candles on your birthday cake add up. But if you're noticing your arms don't swing like they used to, you randomly freeze while walking, or your coordination just seems "off," your changes could be from more than just an aging body. In those with a formal Parkinson's diagnosis, this is called the Parkinson's gait.

Trouble going to the bathroom. The odds you'll suffer from constipation as you age are pretty high-studies suggest that up to 50 percent of adults over 80 have fewer than three bowel movements a week. But there are several factors believed to contribute to constipation among Parkinson's patients, according to Healthline, such as a lack of dopamine (a neurotransmitter involved in controlling muscle movements), anorectal changes, poor muscle coordination, inactivity, and difficulty eating and drinking.

Difference in handwriting. Your handwriting is bound to change as you age, due to infrequent writing, loss of muscle, or even just a natural advancement in penmanship. But as Parkinson's causes involuntary muscle contractions, a change in handwriting (especially the size) is one of the first indicators someone has the disease. "Micrographia" is the medical term for "small handwriting," according to Healthline. People with Parkinson's tend to write words that seem cramped or smaller than usual.

Uncontrollable shaking. One of the more well-known symptoms of Parkinson's is the tremor or uncontrollable movement that affects a limb when it's at rest, according to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. While 10 million people in the U.S. have "Essential Tremors" that tend to pop up in middle age, a Parkinson's tremor usually starts in the hands and arms and can happen in the jaw or feet too. According to WebMD, in the early stages of Parkinson's, the tremor usually affects only one side of your body and may spread to other parts of the body as the disease progresses.

If you have any of these signs, it's important you talk to your doctor and get tested for Parkinson's Disease. An early diagnosis could lead to a better quality of life for you and your family.

Let ComForCare Palm Beach become an integral care partner for you and your loved one. Our personalized care plans and compassionate caregivers help seniors live independently in their own home and continue to do all the things they love.

To learn more, visit palmbeach.comforcare.com or call 561-630-1620.

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