Early Warning Signs in Professionals That Might Signal Parkinson’s Onset

Written by Mika Lee

Parkinson’s disease can feel like a far-off threat, something that happens to others. But this debilitating condition is on the rise, and it can strike anyone. Nearly 1 million Americans live with Parkinson’s, and around 60,000 are diagnosed with it every year. With the number of cases rising, it is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States.

Professionals in the middle of their careers – busy climbing the success ladder with big plans for the future – often dismiss slight tremors as nothing serious or simply getting older. However, 5 to 10% of people with Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed before the age of 50. That’s why it’s important not to ignore those subtle shifts; they could be your body’s first whispers about Parkinson’s Disease. 

It’s a frightening thought, I know. But ignoring it won’t make the possibility go away.

Understanding the early signs isn’t about panic. It’s about giving you the knowledge to protect yourself. 

Knowing what to watch for puts you in the driver’s seat of your health. Early detection and treatment can make a huge difference in managing this disease and maintaining your quality of life.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease? The Unknowns And Why They Matter

If you’re a working professional, losing control over your body and mind likely feels unthinkable. But Parkinson’s Disease (PD) doesn’t discriminate, it can strike earlier. Understanding the cause of the disease is essential. It highlights risks you can lower.

Parkinson’s happens when brain cells that create dopamine start dying off. Low dopamine is why it causes tremors, stiffness, and those frustratingly slow steps.

Some experts say that exposure to chemicals like Trichloroethylene (TCE) is one of the causes of Parkinson’s Disease. Around 4.5% to 18% of the water supplies in the United States tested with TCE. This chemical enters the brain, damages mitochondria, and can cause loss of dopamine-producing cells. 

The VA committee identified the link between Parkinson’s and water contamination at Camp Lejeune. According to TorHoerman Law, marines and professionals who were positioned at the base between 1975 to 1985, have a 70% higher risk of Parkinson’s Disease. TCE is one of the main contaminants of the water at the base.

For many years, victims have been blocked from seeking justice. But in recent years, the government passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which gives the power to sue and recover their damages. 

If you’re one of the victims, you may have questioned how much is the Camp Lejeune settlement per person involving Parkinson’s disease. Well, the amount is not predetermined. To date, the government has paid $400,000 to 17 victims of Perkinson’s disease who were at the base. Some victims receive $250,000 and some receive $100,000. Moreover, many lawyers estimate the settlement value could be around $1 million to $1.3 million. 

For busy professionals, stress is a way of life. But chronic stress damages cells, and might ramp up the risk for Parkinson’s disease if you’re already predisposed. Also, certain pesticides can harm those sensitive brain cells. If your job involves exposure, that’s a red flag, especially in combination with other risk factors.

Early Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease In Working Professionals

Masked Face

Have you ever had a coworker or close friend tell you that you seem less expressive than usual? Maybe they mention that your face looks ‘flat’, or they have trouble reading your emotions.  While awkward to hear, pay close attention. A decrease in facial expressiveness, often called a “masked face”, can be an early sign of Parkinson’s Disease.

This change is due to muscle stiffness, so it’s unlikely something you’ll pick up on in the mirror. It’s subtle, but others see it.

Small Handwriting

The careful loops and curves, the uniform lines – handwriting is more than just a way to communicate. But lately, you may have noticed a change. Your letters seem to shrink, crowding together on the page. This shift, known as micrographia, is often an early sign of Parkinson’s Disease.

Parkinson’s Disease affects more than just large, obvious movements. Studies based on kinematic analysis have shown that patients with this disease may have other small changes. These changes affect velocity, acceleration, and fluency as well as micrographia. 

Sleep Disorder

Sleep is meant to be your reset button. But what if, even after a full night’s rest, you still feel exhausted? This persistent lack of quality sleep is common in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease. It creates a vicious cycle that directly impacts your job performance. That lack of mental clarity makes it harder to focus on complex tasks.

Stiffness And Slow Movement

Notice a new sluggishness in your body? Maybe it’s a stiffness in your shoulders as you reach for something, or a slight hesitation before you stand up from your desk.  These minor changes in movement are often overlooked, but they could be early signs of Parkinson’s Disease. For professionals, even a small slowdown can make everyday tasks feel laborious.


How Is Early Onset Parkinson’s Diagnosed?

There is no single test to diagnose early-onset Parkinson’s disease (diagnosed before age 50). A neurologist will diagnose it based on your medical history, a physical exam, and how well you respond to Parkinson’s medications. This is the same way Parkinson’s is diagnosed at any age.

What Are The 4 Cardinal Signs Of Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease has 4 cardinal signs. They are rest tremor, bradykinesia (decreased movement), rigidity (muscle stiffness), and postural instability.

What Is The Finger Test For Parkinson’s?

The finger-tapping test is a simple assessment used in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease. Doctors ask the patient to tap their index finger against their thumb as quickly and widely as possible. They will assess both hands separately.

What Is Often Mistaken For Parkinson’s?

Several conditions can be mistaken for Parkinson’s disease. Essential tremor (ET) primarily causes shaking, unlike the slowness and stiffness of Parkinson’s. Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and multiple system atrophy (MSA) mimic Parkinson’s.

In the end, numbers don’t lie. Studies predict that people with Parkinson’s disease will exceed 12.9 million by 2040. If a nagging feeling that something is off persists, even with just a few subtle symptoms, don’t ignore it.

 Start by keeping a brief journal to track those changes over a couple of weeks. Then, take that information to a doctor, preferably a movement disorder specialist, for a thorough evaluation. 

The earlier Parkinson’s is caught, the more options you’ll have for treatment to maintain a high quality of life for years to come.

About the author

Mika Lee

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