Parkinson’s disease is a condition of the brain and central nervous system that most people recognize by its motor symptoms, such as tremors, muscle rigidity, impaired balance, and slowness of movement (bradykinesia). Symptoms usually begin on one side of the body and become worse with time. However, besides motor symptoms, most people with Parkinson’s disease also develop non-motor symptoms.

The non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease do not affect movement, coordination, or physical tasks, but they can be more difficult to manage and be more disabling than motor symptoms. Research has shown that people develop some non-motor symptoms years before they are diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Types of non-motor symptoms

  • Emotional and mood changes including, depression, anxiety, and irritability. Antidepressant drugs can be taken to treat depression.
  • Cognitive changes or dementia associated with memory, language, and thinking problems.
  • Hallucinations and delusions, causing people to see, hear or experience things that aren’t real (hallucinations), or believe that things aren’t true (delusions). Nuplazid is an approved drug for the treatment of hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Orthostatic hypotension, a sudden drop in blood pressure that occurs when a person stands up from a sitting or lying position. It causes dizziness and, in extreme cases, loss of balance and fainting.
  • Sleeping problems such as insomnia, nightmares, emotional dreams, and restless sleep.
  • Constipation or urinary problems.
  • Skin problems such as oily skin, particularly on the forehead and at the sides of the nose, and in some cases in the scalp. In other cases, the skin becomes very dry.
  • Pain associated with muscle and joints rigidity. Treatment with levodopa (a medication that temporarily restores dopamine in the brain) and certain types of exercise can help relieve pain symptoms.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy may result from other symptoms, such as depression, sleep problems, or muscle stress. Exercise, good sleeping habits, staying mentally active, or not engaging in too many activities may help in relieving these symptoms.
  • Sexual problems. Parkinson’s disease affects nerve signals from the brain, which may cause sexual problems. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, also may contribute to these problems.
  • Muscle cramps and dystonia. Muscle cramps are associated with muscle rigidity, especially in the legs and toes. Massages, stretching, and applying heat may help with cramps. Dystonia results from the variation of dopamine levels that trigger muscle contraction.

Other examples of non-motor symptoms may include:

  • Vision problems.
  • Excessive sweating, especially in the hands and feet with no or little exercise.
  • Loss of smell.
  • Weight loss or weight gain.
  • Impulsive behaviors due to the side effects of medication.

Mixed motor and non-motor symptoms

The National Parkinson’s Foundation attributes the mixed motor and non-motor symptoms classification to the muscles used in speaking and swallowing. These muscles also can be affected by tremors, rigidity, and slowness of movement, resulting in:

  • Excessive saliva due to difficulties swallowing.
  • Speech difficulties characterized by a soft and monotone voice. Some people may hesitate before speaking, or some may speak too fast. A speech therapist can help with these problems.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.