Parkinson's Disease Department of Neurology The University of Chicago Medical Center Hospitals



Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been classically noted as a disorder of motor control, most commonly including the following symptoms:

  • Tremor at rest – shaking, most often seen in the hands

  • Rigidity – stiffness of the muscles on passive movement

  • Bradykinesia – slowness of movements (including akinesia, lack of movement and hypokinesia, reduced amplitude of movements)

  • Postural Instability – difficulty with balance

Patients will often mention that their handwriting has become smaller and their voice is softer. They may have a less expressive face, a harder time getting in and out of a chair or trouble turning in bed at night. They notice a change in the way they walk, often dragging a foot or walking with a shuffling gait. Some patients will notice a cramping sensation particularly in the foot or a feeling of numbness or heavy feeling in an arm or leg.

Patients sometimes wonder if they are having a stroke. PD usually affects one side of the body more than the other. However, unlike most cases of stroke there is no true muscle weakness or loss of sensation. In addition, Parkinson’s disease begins and progresses in a gradual manner as opposed to the abrupt onset of symptoms with stroke.

Clinical symptoms beyond motor problems are common in PD and more difficulty to treat with medications. These include loss of smell, sleep problems, urinary abnormalities, constipation, dizziness on standing, anxiety, depression, irritability, poor attention, difficulty with multitasking, and memory loss.