Before the typical movement problems appear in Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and drooling may be the first outward signs of the disease, according to new research.
For the study, 159 patients recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s — as well as 99 healthy people used as controls — reported whether they’d experienced any of 30 potential non-motor symptoms. These conditions ranged from sleeping problems, to digestive issues, to sexual difficulties.
The findings revealed that individuals who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s have an average of eight of these problems, while those without Parkinson’s experience an average of three problems.
“These results show that Parkinson’s affects many systems in the body, even in its earliest stages,” said researcher Tien K. Khoo, Ph.D., of the UK’s Newcastle University.
“Often these symptoms affect people’s quality of life just as much if not more than the movement problems that come with the disease. Both doctors and patients need to bring these symptoms up and consider available treatments.”
The most common symptoms reported by the patients with Parkinson’s included:
- Drooling (56 percent of people with Parkinson’s, versus 6 percent without the condition),
- Constipation (experienced by 42 percent of people with Parkinson’s, compared with 7 percent without the condition)
- Anxiety (experienced by 43 percent of people with Parkinson’s, compared with 10 percent of those without the condition)
Parkinson’s disease affects up to 1 million people in the United States, and about 60,000 people are diagnosed with the condition each year in this country, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.
Signs typically include tremors, slowed movement, problems with walking, muscle stiffness, changes in speaking and the loss of the ability to do “automatic movements” (like blinking), the Mayo Clinic reported, although early symptoms of the disease can be so subtle that they go unnoticed.
The study is published in the journal Neurology.