Parkinson’s disease has both motor and non-motor signs. Most of these signs can be recognized without the need of performing specific lab tests. Here, we discuss the different ways to assess these signs that will help you to check yourself for Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a brain disorder that affects 1% of the population over the age of 60. The disease affects the body’s ability to perform various movements.
Researchers believe that the main culprit of PD is dopamine. This chemical helps your brain parts to correctly regulate various body movements. The lack or insufficient amount of dopamine in the brain results in slow and abnormal movement of the various body parts.
PD has both motor and non-motor signs. Most of these signs can be easily recognized by closely examining your body for various functions. Here, we discuss different ways to recognize these signs that will help you to test yourself for PD.
Watch for Your Motor Functions
Motor disabilities are often the most typical signs of PD. These signs develop when your brain has already lost 80% of the neurons responsible for the production of dopamine.
This is fundamental to the diagnosis of PD. In medical terms, this is called bradykinesia. You can check this sign of the disease by performing the following 3 movement tests, which involve big and fast rapid alternating movements.
i) Finger Tapping
This small movement test can be difficult to assess and often requires a specialist. In this test, you need to tap your thumb and index finger. Do it ten times for both hands. While performing it, carefully examine your finger’s movements, whether they become slower or smaller over time.
ii) Heel Tapping
Sit on the chair and start tapping your right foot on the ground. Do it ten times and then repeat it for your left foot. Remember to tap your whole foot. Check if you feel any movement changes over time.
iii) Rapid Opening and Closing of the Fist
This test involves the opening and closing of your fist. When doing it, try to open your fist wide open and close it as fast as you can. Repeat it for the other hand. Carefully examine any subtle changes in the movement.
Hand tremor is the typical symptom of PD. However, most people confuse it with essential tremor, which is the most common trembling disorder that has affected 1% of the world population.
So here is how you differentiate between the two?
In PD, the tremor appears when the hands are at rest. This is called resting tremor. The easiest way to assess this type of tremor is to sit on the chair and relax your arms in your lap for a while. See if your hands are trembling.
Essential tremor, on the other hand, occurs when your hands are in motion; meaning that they are performing some actions like drinking, eating, or writing.
It’s important to mention here that tremor in PD is not limited to hands. It could also affect your head, legs, chin, and jaws. So you should also check for any abnormal shaking of those parts of your body.
This is a very simple test and is often used as a diagnostic tool in the clinic. You can do it by yourself at home. Take a blank paper and start writing on it. Check whether you write in a slow and steady manner. Most importantly, do you notice any sudden change in the size of your writing; meaning that as you write, the letters change from normal to smaller and cramped. If yes, this could be the sign of PD.
Abnormal gait is a common sign of PD. You can recognize this sign of the disease by examining your walking pattern. To assess this, perform a short distance (10-15 meters) walk test. While walking, look for any of the following:
- Short and shuffling steps
- Sudden freezing in one position and unable to step forward
- No arm swing
If you see any or all of these walking abnormalities, it could be that you might have PD.
Watch for Your Non-motor Functions
PD can also be recognized by its non-motor signs, which are often considered the early signs of PD and may appear many years before the typical motor signs.
Following are the main non-motor features of PD that you should consider, even if your body does not show motor signs.
- Reduced sense of smell
- Frequent constipation
- Trouble sleeping during the night
- Low blood pressure
- Social withdrawal or loss of interest in pleasurable activities
How About Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing is often required if PD runs in your family. Research shows that 15% of PD cases are inherited. There are over a dozen defective genes identified that are known to cause PD. If you want to check whether you carry any of these defective genes, you would need to perform a genetic test.
Related post: What genes are linked to Parkinson’s disease?
You should know that genetic testing is not a diagnosis. It rather helps to estimate your risk of developing PD. Many companies have developed genetic kits that are used to identify the defective genes linked to PD. If you want to perform those tests, we would recommend you consult with your healthcare provider or a genetic counselor to interpret the results of the test and to further advise you based on those results.
If your body show most of the above-mentioned signs and you haven’t seen your doctor yet, it’s high time to make an appointment with your doctor for a thorough check-up. Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist (a doctor who is specialized in brain diseases) for further tests to properly diagnose you for PD.
Remember that PD is a progressive disease and delay in the diagnosis can further worsen your condition. Therefore, we strongly recommend you to go for an early diagnosis. It will help you deal with this disease more effectively.
Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.