Key Facts Everyone Should Know About Parkinson’s Disease

By: John Lehr, President & Chief Executive Officer, Parkinson’s Foundation

When most people think of Parkinson’s disease (PD), they think of a tremor or difficulty moving. However, Parkinson’s affects more than just movement. Symptoms, such as trouble sleeping and loss of smell, known as non-movement symptoms, often occur before a tremor.

About 90,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain cells that produce dopamine. When the brain cannot produce enough dopamine, a variety of symptoms can appear and progress over time.

Early signs of Parkinson’s include:

  • Tremor: a slight shaking or tremor that generally starts with a finger, hand, or chin.
  • Small handwriting: a change in handwriting with cramped letters.
  • Loss of Smell: not able to smell bananas, dill pickles, or licorice.
  • Trouble Sleeping: sudden movements during sleep, like thrashing around.
  • Trouble Moving or Walking: stiffness in the body, arms, or legs that does not go away as you move. Feeling stuck to the floor.
  • See all 10 signs now.

The prevalence of Parkinson’s is on the rise due to the nation’s aging population. What do you do if you or a loved one is experiencing several signs? Talk to your doctor about finding a movement disorders specialist (a neurologist with specialized training). Working with a specialist who knows Parkinson’s is key to receiving the best treatment and long-term quality of life.  

How to Live Well with Parkinson’s

Every person living with Parkinson’s experiences symptoms and a rate of progression that is unique to them. Motor (movement) symptoms include issues with balance, tremor, and limb stiffness. While non-motor (non-movement) symptoms include anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, among a variety of others.

After finding a neurologist, or movement disorders specialist, the Parkinson’s Foundation suggests that people with PD begin to build their care team to manage their most troublesome symptoms. For example, a speech-language pathologist can help with speech and swallowing symptoms, while a physical therapist can help with strength and maintaining mobility. Nutritionists, social workers, therapists, and other specialists can all be essential members of a care team.

Exercise is an important part of healthy living for everyone. However, for those with Parkinson’s, exercise is more than healthy—it is a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility, and activities of daily living. Research shows that exercise and physical activity can not only maintain and improve mobility, flexibility, and balance but also ease non-movement PD symptoms such as depression or constipation. In-person and online PD-tailored exercise classes are a great place to start.

While there is no cure, people living with Parkinson’s can experience active lives. Medications and various treatment options often help. There are also many resources available, such as the Parkinson’s Foundation Newly Diagnosed kit.

Essential Parkinson’s Resources

Parkinson’s Foundation resources are designed for people living with and caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease. Explore the top resources below:

  1. Visit org. Access unlimited articles highlighting the latest Parkinson’s information, from symptoms and research to caregiving and tips.
  2. Find experts and resources in your area. Enter your zip code to find nearby expert care.
  1. Listen to the podcast. Substantial Matters: Life and Science of Parkinson’s, highlights the most critical PD topics.
  2. Participate in a research study. Discover the different opportunities for getting involved with PD research.
  3. Follow on social media. Stay up to date on the latest in Parkinson’s news and feel-good stories through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Every six minutes, someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the U.S. This April, for Parkinson’s Awareness Month, take six minutes to help the Parkinson’s Foundation create a world without Parkinson’s. Visit for ways you can help advocate for the Parkinson’s community.

The Parkinson’s Foundation is here to help. Contact the Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636) or [email protected] for answers to your Parkinson’s questions, referrals and personalized resources.

The Parkinson’s Foundation is a member of the National Health Council. For more information on NHC membership, please email [email protected].