10 signs of Parkinson's Disease; resources for care and support

Early diagnosis, specialized therapy can slow the progress
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When Gov. Ed Rendell's learned he had Parkinson's Disease, he worried he'd quickly lose his mobility, having seen his mother struggle with it for the last decade of her life.

Thankfully, a lot has changed in Parkinson's treatment since then, with more treatment options and resources for care and support than ever.

First, there's the Parkinson's Foundation, which has an entire section of its website devoted to "Living with Parkinson's."

And within that, there's a library, help for caregivers, and advice on legal and financial matters.

The foundation also covers basics, such as recognizing Parkinson's:

1. Tremor - Have you noticed a slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand or chin? A tremor while at rest is a common early sign of Parkinson's disease.

2. Small Handwriting - Has your handwriting gotten much smaller than it was in the past? You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, such as letter sizes are smaller and the words are crowded together.

3. Loss of Smell - Have you noticed you no longer smell certain foods very well? If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson's.

4. Trouble Sleeping - Do you thrash around in bed or act out dreams when you are deeply asleep? Sudden movements during sleep may be a sign of Parkinson's disease.

5. Trouble Moving or Walking - Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Have others noticed that your arms don't swing like they used to when you walk? People sometimes say their feet seem "stuck to the floor."

6. Constipation - Do you have trouble moving your bowels without straining every day? Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson's disease and you should talk to your doctor.

7. A Soft or Low Voice - Have other people told you that your voice is very soft or that you sound hoarse? If there has been a change in your voice you should see your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson's disease.

8. Masked Face - Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face, even when you are not in a bad mood? This is often called facial masking. If so, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson's disease.

9. Dizziness or Fainting - Do you notice that you often feel dizzy when you stand up out of a chair? Feeling dizzy or fainting can be a sign of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson's disease (PD).

10. Stooping or Hunching Over - Are you not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson's disease (PD).

Treatment for Parkinson's usually includes some form on physic therapy.

Bancroft NeuroRehab in New Jersey offers 2 programs to address 2 major ways Parkinson's affects patients - large motor skills, and voice..

BIG and LOUD Therapy help patients overcome those challenges.

Philadelphia's Magee Rehab also offers the BIG Therapy program.

One of Gov. Rendell's key exercises is boxing, through the Rock Steady Boxing Program at Good Shepherd Penn Partners.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has a nationwide network of support groups to help patients and caregivers. Find them here.
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