There is no escaping the fact that Parkinson’s disease is one of the most prevalent and debilitating illnesses around. While there is still no cure, catching it early on can make a significant difference in the quality of life patients experience. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the warning signs associated with Parkinson’s and to get checked out right away if you notice any of the following symptoms in your mouth.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disorder. The primary cause of Parkinson’s is a lack of a chemical messenger, called dopamine, which delivers commands from the brain to various areas of the body. This lack of dopamine makes it difficult for the person to make coordinated movement, which is why the symptoms of Parkinson’s tend to include tremors and difficulty walking. Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder, meaning the symptoms tend to get worse over time.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s symptoms can vary from person to person, but there are some general warning signs that may indicate someone may be developing the disease. Generally, people with Parkinson’s experience rigidity, tremors or unsteadiness, slowness of movement, and difficulty initiating movement when trying to perform everyday tasks. Additionally, balance and coordination may be impaired and cognitive and emotional processes may be impacted as well.
Signs and Symptoms in the Mouth
In addition to the above mentioned signs and symptoms, those with Parkinson’s may also experience strange anomalies in their mouth. Here are some of the warning signs that should be brought to a doctor’s attention:
Dysphagia: Difficult and/or painful swallowing can be a sign of Parkinson’s as it is caused by a muscular imbalance in the mouth, throat and tongue.
Loss of taste: Some patients report losing their ability to taste food. This can sometimes be followed by burning, tingling or numbness in the mouth and lips.
Jaw pain and/or stiffness: Pain or stiffness in the jaw muscles and the TMJ disorder can be related to the onset of Parkinson’s in some individuals.
Excessive salivation: Saliva production may be decreased or increased due to the abnormalities in the brain associated with the disease.
Loss of sense of smell: Loss of sense of smell is another symptom of Parkinson’s and is caused by the lack of dopamine in the brain.
Why Checking for Parkinson’s Is So Important
If any of these warning signs are present, it is essential that you see a doctor for further diagnostic tests. Without professional diagnosis and treatment, the progression of the disease can greatly aggravate existing symptoms. Early diagnosis of Parkinson’s is recognized as key to successful health management and can make all the difference in terms of quality of life.
How Is Parkinson’s Diagnosed?
When confronted with any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, the doctor will usually run a series of tests to diagnose if Parkinson’s is present. This may involve a series of comprehensive physical and neurological exams and imaging studies. A doctor may request a PET Scan (positron emission tomography) and/or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) as well as a general neurological exam. The doctor will look at each case on an individual basis and make an assessment based on the symptoms, medical history, and results of these tests.
Once diagnosed with Parkinson’s, there are several alternative treatments available. The most common are therapies like physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and vocational training and assistance. Additionally, some people are able to supplement drug therapies with lifestyle and dietary modifications. Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, nutritive supplementation and yoga have all helped some people manage their Parkinson’s symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease is an insidious neurological disorder that can lead to a rapid deterioration in the quality of life for those affected. Symptoms like dysphagia, loss of taste, jaw stiffness/pain, excessive salivation, and loss of sense of smell may be signs that the disease is present. Therefore, if you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs in the mouth, it is important to see a doctor right away to be tested and diagnosed. There is no cure, but early diagnosis and the right treatment methods can help minimize the progression of this disease.