Parkinson’s disease—a chronic and progressive brain disorder that causes loss of muscle control—affects nearly one million people in the United States alone. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation says the disease involves “the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain,” many of which produce dopamine, a chemical that is responsible for controlling movement and coordination.
While symptoms such as tremors, slowed movement and speech problems are among the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s, they tend to present themselves only once the disease has progressed. To detect Parkinson’s disease in the early stages of development, the following are 12 signs to keep an eye out for.
1. Loss of Smell
A lost, or impaired, sense of smell is considered among the very earliest warning signs of Parkinson’s disease. Medically referred to as anosmia, the NHS indicates that it can sometimes occur as much as several years prior to other symptoms developing.
The dopamine-producing cells mentioned before are responsible for carrying signals between the brain and the muscles and nerves. As they die off, the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation says, “messages such as odor cues don’t get through,” impairing the sense of smell.