Senior Living: Learning about Parkinson's disease

Q. I have a tremor in my left hand and worry that I have Parkinson’s disease. What are the symptoms?

Parkinson’s disease is difficult to diagnose and only a doctor can do so, preferably a movement-disorder specialist. The symptoms are many and can also be attributed to other causes.

The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

Tremor — A Parkinson’s tremor happens on one side of the body while the hand or foot is at rest, whereas an essential tremor happens when the hand is in the process of doing something. An essential tremor is not necessarily a sign of any disease.

Bradykinesia (slow movement) — In addition to slow movements, a person with Bradykinesia will probably also have incomplete movement, difficulty initiating movements and sudden stopping of ongoing movement.

Rigidity — Rigidity means stiffness or inflexibility of the muscles, sometimes resulting in a decreased range of motion. Bradykinesia and rigidity can occur in the facial muscles, reducing a person's range of facial expressions and resulting in a mask-like appearance.

Impaired balance and coordination — People with Parkinson's disease often experience instability when standing, or impaired balance and coordination. These symptoms, combined with Bradykinesia, increase the chance of falling.

The secondary symptoms of Parkinson’s include the following, but not all people with Parkinson’s will experience all of these:

The secondary motor symptoms

Stooped posture, a tendency to lean forward


Impaired fine-motor dexterity and motor coordination

Impaired gross-motor coordination

A feeling of inner restlessness

Speech problems, such as softness of voice or slurred speech caused by lack of muscle

Loss of facial expression, or “masking”

Small, cramped handwriting

Difficulty swallowing

If you have Parkinson’s disease or just would like to know more about it, come to the YMCA’s Parkinson’s Support/Educational Group on Friday, Feb. 18 at noon. The group is led by Dr. Jerome Lisk, a movement-disorder specialist, and meets on the third Friday of the month. The community is invited to attend.


NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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