What is Pre-Parkinson’s?

By Pete Lane, 9:00 am on

At Home Care Assistance Centennial, our senior home care experts often field questions from loving family members about disease-specific symptoms to look for in their senior loved ones. Although we always encourage family members to take any health concerns to their loved one’s physician, below we offer more information on what’s known as “pre-Parkinson’s.”

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are caused by the death of brain cells that create dopamine. It’s long been a mystery why the physical symptoms of the disease–such as tremors and shaking–don’t appear until up to 70 percent of the dopamine-producing brain cells have died. Well, according to new research, Parkinson’s disease is preceded by a period called pre-Parkinson’s.

It can be difficult to diagnose an elderly person as being in the pre-Parkinson’s phase of the disease because the classic signs of PD are not yet present. That’s because during pre-Parkinson’s, healthy areas of the brain begin to take over functions for damaged areas of the brain.

The following are symptoms of pre-Parkinson’s disease that are often missed. If you or a loved one are showing symptoms of pre-Parkinson’s disease, early treatment is important to preserve the greatest number of brain neurons.

Symptoms of Pre-Parkinson’s

  • Lost sense of smell. This is one of the strangest early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and one of the easiest to miss. As dopamine-producing brain cells die, sense of smell is impaired as these chemical messengers work to carry signals between the nerves, brain, and muscles.
  • Constipation. Constipation is often overlooked as a symptom of Parkinson’s because it has many causes. Pre-Parkinson’s can cause constipation because the disease affects the autonomic nervous system that regulates the activity of the bladder and bowels. Parkinson’s-related constipation often comes with a feeling of fullness that lasts a long time.
  • Persistent neck pain or numbness. This symptom is most common in women. It may feel like pain that never goes away or numbness or tingling.
  • Reduced range of motion in the arms. Many seniors with undiagnosed PD first notice subtle stiffness in the arms and reduced range of motion. Some people notice it more when walking, as one arm may not swing as freely as the other.

If your senior loved one has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, turn to Home Care Assistance. As a leading provider of Parkinson’s care Centennial families trust, we can provide you and your loved one with support and resources, and ensure your loved one receives optimal home care. Give us a call at 303.957.3100 and speak with an experienced Care Manager to learn more.