Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.Different people experience progression at different speeds, as well. However, physicians have established stages that describe how the disease progresses. These five stages of Parkinson’s are known as the Hoehn and Yahr Scale used by physicians throughout the world to classify patients in research studies.
Patients usually begin developing the disease around age 60, and many live between 10 and 20 years after being diagnosed. However, a patient’s current age and general health status factor into the accuracy of this estimate.
- cramped handwriting or other writing changes.
- tremor, especially in finger, hand or foot.
- uncontrollable movements during sleep.
- limb stiffness or slow movement (bradykinesia)
- voice changes.
- rigid facial expression or masking.
- stooped posture.
But the most common cause of death in those with Parkinson’s is pneumonia, because the disease impairs patients‘ ability to swallow, putting them at risk for inhaling or aspirating food or liquids into their lungs, leading to aspiration pneumonia.