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Motor Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease (PD) a movement disorder characterized by four hallmark symptoms that help movement disorder specialists make the diagnosis:

1. Tremor

2. Bradykinesia

3. Rigidity

4. Postural instability

These symptoms are different from person to person and typically develop slowly over time.

There is no single diagnostic test or scan for Parkinson’s.

  • Tremor: involuntary, rhythmic shaking of hands or limbs

  • Bradykinesia: slow movement

  • Rigidity: stiffness

  • Postural instability: loss of balance, gait disturbance, or difficulty turning while standing or walking increasing risk of falls; occurs later in the disease progression.


In fact, problems with walking, balance and turning around early in the disease are likely a sign of atypical parkinsonism.

Additional Motor Symptoms

  • Cramping (dystonia): sustained or repetitive twisting or tightening of muscle.

  • Drooling (sialorrhea): while not always viewed as a motor symptom, excessive saliva or drooling may result due to a decrease in normally automatic actions such as swallowing.

  • Dyskinesia: involuntary, erratic writhing movements of the face, arms, legs or trunk.

  • Festination: short, rapid steps taken during walking. May increase risk of falling and often seen in association with freezing.

  • Freezing: gives the appearance of being stuck in place, especially when initiating a step, turning or navigating through doorways. Potentially serious problem as it may increase risk of falling.

  • Masked face (hypomimia): results from the combination of bradykinesia and rigidity.

  • Micrographia: small, untidy and cramped handwriting due to bradykinesia.

  • Shuffling gait: accompanied by short steps and often a stooped posture.

  • Soft speech (hypophonia): soft, sometimes hoarse, voice that can occur in PD.


What Causes Parkinson’s Motor Symptoms?

Dopamine is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that is primarily responsible for controlling movement, emotional responses and the ability to feel pleasure and pain. In people with Parkinson’s, the cells that make dopamine are impaired. As Parkinson’s progresses, more dopamine-producing brain cells die. Your brain eventually reaches a point where it stops producing dopamine in any significant amount. This causes increasing problems with movement.

Sources: Parkinson's Foundation

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