Loss of smell and taste? Symptoms could be early signs of this debilitating condition

Parkinson’s UK has warned that thousands of people remain unaware of early signs and symptoms of the condition, and it could result in a delay in diagnosis. 

The three main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, according to the NHS, are: 

  • Involuntary sharking of particular parts of the body (tremor) 
  • Slow movement 
  • Stiff and inflexible muscles

But it also states a person with Parkinson’s disease can also experience a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms, including:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Balance problems - this may increase the chance of a fall 
  • Loses of sense of smell (anosmis) 
  • Problems sleeping (insomnia) 
  • Memory problems 

Research carried out by the charity shows that just 12 per cent of people know that loss of smell and loss of taste are common initial symptoms if Parkinson’s . 

And only 24 per cent of people recognised smell, inconsistent handwriting as a tell-tale sign. 

Despite low awareness of these lesser known symptoms, 80 per cent of people correctly identified tremor as a symptom of the condition.

Prof David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Although the majority of people recognise the very visible signs of Parkinson’s, such as tremor or rigidity, there seems to be a worrying gap in people’s knowledge of the condition’s less visible - but very common - symptoms. 

“It is important people realise that Parkinson’s presents very differently in different people and not everyone will experience the well-known Parkinson’s tremor. Changes in handwriting, loss of smell or taste and loss of balance are all early symptoms, and better knowledge of what to look out for could mean earlier diagnosis.” 

Carolyn Ibberson, 50, from Bradford, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 at the age of 46. 

Looking back, she realised her loss of smell happened a long time before all her other symptoms began. 

She said: “I first noticed when my husband was complaining about a bad smell coming from the bin, but I couldn’t smell it at all. Even then I didn’t think anything of it - and I had no idea that it could mean Parkinson’s. 

“Because there were no other problems and I wasn’t in pain I didn’t think to go to the doctor. It was only years later, in 2008, when I started experiencing dizziness and then eventually started getting a tremor in 2011. Even then I didn’t get a firm diagnosis until 2013 because no one expected it could be Parkinson’s as I was so young. 

“Now I can hardly smell anything - and I can’t taste much either. I’ve lost about four stone over the years because I just don’t enjoy eating like I used to it’s not something that I had ever associated with parkinson’s before - I had no idea that it was more than a tremor and I didn’t appreciate just how much of my life it could affect.” 

Prof Dexter continued: “It’s especially important that people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed as early as possible so that we can better comprehend how the condition progresses from its early stages. If we could understand what is happening in the brains of people with the condition earlier on, we could work on developing treatments that could prevent the progression of Parkinson’s – something that no current treatment can do.

 “Although we want people to be aware that Parkinson’s is more than a tremor, it’s important that people experiencing certain symptoms don’t panic. If anyone is concerned, there is plenty of further information on our website. Also, for free and confidential advice, they can call the Parkinson’s UK support line for more information.”

If you are concerned you may have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, visit your GP. 

A recent study revealed eating too much low-fat dairy could trigger the condition.



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