Which PD Symptoms Did You Initially Think Were Related to Aging?

Last updated: July 2018

Several common symptoms of PD can mimic signs of aging. This fact, along with the fact that PD is most commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 60, makes it easy for individuals to minimize initial PD symptoms and think that they are related to getting older or other age-related conditions. Slowness in movement, impaired balance, lack of coordination, and more, are all signs of PD that one might initially attribute to the general aging process before ever considering PD, or bringing these up to their healthcare provider. This can lead to a delay in diagnosis or misdiagnosis, and can happen to many individuals with PD. We recently asked our community members if they had any early Parkinson’s disease symptoms that they thought were related to aging rather than to PD. The responses we received were so insightful that we wanted to share some with you.

Beyond motor symptoms

When we think of PD, we often first thing of motor or musculoskeletal symptoms. However, non-motor symptoms such as sleep problems, fatigue, loss of smell, cognitive changes, and more may be related to PD and develop years before an official PD diagnosis. Often, these non-motor symptoms are also signs of aging, and may not be identified as potential PD-related issues until after diagnosis or further symptoms develop.

  • “I had double vision years before the diagnosis.”
  • “I lost my sense of smell.”
  • “Fatigue.”
  • “Difficulty finding words.”
  • Vision issues and fatigue.”
  • “Constipation.”
  • “Trouble sleeping.”
  • “Eyesight started changing.”
  • “I had experienced extreme sleepiness.”
  • “Fatigue, pain, and slowing down.”
  • “Fatigue and unable to do my taxes, plus the inability to do the smallest chores.”
  • “Memory changes.”

Motor or musculoskeletal-related issues

Even hallmark motor symptoms of PD, such as shaking hands, stooped posture, gait changes, and more are often also signs of aging. Similar to non-motor symptoms, these symptoms may also be mistaken for the general aging process before PD is suspected or identified. Many of our members attributed these motor or musculoskeletal-related symptoms to aging before they brought them up to their doctor or suspected that something more might be going on.

  • “My walking slowed, I could hardly lift my legs. I thought ‘I’m just getting old’.”
  • “I experienced small tremors for a year.”
  • “I thought it was arthritis and vision problems and that they were age related.”
  • “My hand started shaking and walking was a little different.”
  • “I had weakness in my legs and arms.”
  • “Poor posture and doing everything slowly.”
  • “Not standing up straight.”
  • “My dad had a muscle spasm that wouldn't go away or stop.”
  • “My husband had trouble with fine motor skills nearly two years before being diagnosed.”
  • “Shuffling of the feet.”
  • “Left arm not moving when walking.”
  • “Tremors and muscle twitches.”
  • “Left arm stiffness.”
  • “Not being able to stand straight and tall.”
  • “Twitching in left arm and hand.”
  • “Walking was a little different.”

Occasionally, signs of aging and PD symptoms may overlap, and make it difficult to distinguish one from the other, especially since PD is commonly diagnosed later in life. In many cases of PD, both PD progression and the aging process may be at work, making it difficult to correctly identify early signs of Parkinson’s. It is clear from the responses we received from our community that this experience is incredibly common, and can lead to PD symptoms being present for some time before diagnosis, especially when considered to be signs of getting older rather than of an underlying condition developing. If you are having a difficult time determining if you are experiencing common aging-related issues versus another similarly presenting condition, consider talking to your healthcare provider.

Let us know if you experienced any early signs of PD that you attributed to the aging process. We’d love to hear from you!

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