Parkinson’s disease affects a patient’s nervous system and their body’s movements. Most people have heard of this illness, but not many know about the stages of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition that worsens with time. One can consult a doctor to understand the stages involved in detail. This article will aim to give a brief overview of this condition’s stages. However, since this disease affects the brain, the stages and their symptoms may differ from one individual to another. Some patients exhibit severe signs while others can continue to function normally. The speed at which it progresses also differs.
One can understand the stages briefly on the basis of the Hoehn and Yahr scale. Physicians also use this scale. It is quite easy to classify and treat patients according to it. Here are the five stages of Parkinson’s disease:
The first stage
The symptoms of the first stage differ for different patients. However, if one identifies the signs in the early stages, it becomes easy to treat the condition. One may only observe some symptoms in the beginning, and these occur on one side of the body. Known as unilateral involvement, it doesn’t hamper one’s ability to function normally. At times, these mild signs might go unnoticed by the doctor as well as the patient. The most common symptoms in the first stage are:
- Rigidity in the hand
- Clumsiness in the hand or leg
- Rigidity or clumsiness on one side of the face
None of these symptoms are apparent, and hence, doctors might wait it out before diagnosing it as the first stage of Parkinson’s disease.
The second stage
The signs or symptoms may not be apparent even in the second stage of Parkinson’s disease. This stage is a part of the early stages, and therefore it isn’t all that obvious that one has Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms are bilateral and not unilateral in this stage. Thus, the disease now affects both sides of the body. Some patients might exhibit symptoms in and around the midriff region. However, it is not necessary that these signs are symmetrical, which is what makes diagnosis difficult. It might take a few months to a few years for this condition to progress from stage one to stage two. One can observe the following problems in the second stage of Parkinson’s disease:
- Complete loss of facial expressions
- Improper or no blinking movements
- Speech impairment
- Changes in the tone of one’s voice
- Inability to speak loudly and clearly for a long time
- Stiff muscles
- Problems in the spinal cord
- Hunched back
- Slowing down in general
Even at this stage, in spite of all the problems, an individual can function more or less normally, which is how this condition can go unnoticed. Diagnosis at this stage is possible if patients suffer from tremors. However, if the person is old, there is a chance that they might consider it a sign of aging and ignore it.
The third stage
At this stage, it becomes obvious that the patient is unwell. A person with Parkinson’s disease might show some symptoms like a complete loss of balance. The slowness at this stage is also quite noticeable. A person in the third stage of Parkinson’s disease might find themselves falling randomly. Since the coordination of muscles has slowed down considerably, people are unable to prevent the fall.
It is quite easy to diagnose Parkinson’s disease at this stage. To confirm the condition, the physician will stand behind the patient and pull their shoulders. If they can prevent the fall and regain their balance, they are good to go. However, if they can’t, then they may need treatment. One should not worry about this test as the doctor will prevent any falls.
At this stage too, a lot of patients can manage their daily schedules all by themselves. They can dress up and get ready without any hassles. The patients can also eat without anyone else’s help.
The fourth stage
At this stage, a patient may start to lose their sense of independence. They can no longer function normally. Walking and standing become problematic. However, a lot of patients can get by with some external help. They may be able to walk around with the help of a walker. However, it is no longer possible to live independently, and the patient will need a lot of help from friends and family. The extent to which the patient needs help is directly proportional to the severity of the disease. The transition from the third to the fourth stage is quite difficult to define as they have overlapping symptoms.
The fifth stage
This is the final stage of Parkinson’s disease. A person may need medical help for their daily functions. Sometimes, patients may also need to undergo brain surgery.