People with Parkinson's disease are often affected in different ways with varied symptoms. Parkinson's is a movement disorder that progresses over time, so disease progression through the stages may last for years. Some of the signs of Parkinson's include stiffness of muscles, tremors in the extremities and exhaustion. Some patients are misdiagnosed with arthritis when they actually have Parkinson's disease.
The number of symptoms and severity often varies. Parkinson's disease normally occurs in five different stages, but it is possible for patients with Parkinson's disease to skip some of the beginning stages and advance quickly to the final stages.
In the first stage of Parkinson's, normally mild symptoms occur on one side of the body, such as tremors, which impedes on one's faculties and the ability to perform simple activities such as buttoning a shirt. There may also be changes in posture and balance during the first stage. In the second stage of Parkinson's, patients will see a marked difference as the symptoms may start to affect both sides of the body, unlike the first stage. This instability affects coordination and balance more prominently, and it often becomes increasingly apparent that there is something wrong if Parkinson's has not been diagnosed.
The third stage of Parkinson's disease can be severe and debilitating, affecting the ability to walk or stand up straight, and some suffer from slowing body movements and stiff muscles. This change can affect the face and throat, which affects the ability to swallow.
Building on stage 3 of Parkinson's disease, many patients lose the ability to function on their own and cannot complete daily living tasks on their own. At this stage of the disease, it is common for patients with Parkinson's disease to require live-in help or transfer to an assisted-living facility to provide for daily needs. Some patients who have Parkinson's may see a sudden disappearance of symptoms for a period of time prior to advancing to stage 5 of the disease.
The final stage of Parkinson's disease involves the inability to care for oneself and the inability to walk or stand. Because of this advancement, those with stage 5 Parkinson's normally require 24-hour care. Some movements may become involuntary and the person's cognition is affected to the point that some are not able to finish small sentences. It is not uncommon for those in stage 5 to be confined to a wheelchair or bed and have difficulty feeding oneself.
Some patients may be taken off medication in the last stages of Parkinson's because of their ineffectiveness in reducing symptoms. Dementia is common in cases of Parkinson's disease, which occurs in 40 to 80 per cent of patients.
Although Parkinson's normally does not lead to death, the disease can make one more susceptible to choking because of the decreased ability to swallow, depression and health conditions such as pneumonia. They also often become incontinent, requiring regular care for being changed and turned in bed to avoid sores.
There are approximately one million people in the United States with Parkinson's disease, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.