Parkinson’s symptoms may fluctuate as medication wears off, but they don’t come and go in episodes or flare-ups. A sudden increase in Parkinson’s symptoms is often a sign of an underlying issue such as stress.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic degenerative condition that causes symptoms such as tremors, muscle stiffness, and speech difficulties. The condition progresses slowly, and symptoms get worse with time.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s can fluctuate throughout the day. For instance, you might feel better at lunchtime than you do in the late evening. However, Parkinson’s symptoms don’t come and go the way symptoms of some other chronic conditions do.
A sudden increase in Parkinson’s symptoms is almost always linked to an underlying cause. This could be something minor, such as a recent medication change, or something potentially serious, such as an infection.
Parkinson’s symptoms can fluctuate throughout the day and worsen during certain periods, such as the early morning or late evening. Often, this is because medications begin to wear off between doses.
However, unlike some conditions, Parkinson’s disease doesn’t cause episodes or flare-ups. Parkinson’s symptoms get worse over time at a steady, but slow, rate. If you experience a sudden change in symptoms in days or weeks, it’s typically a sign something else is going on. For example, you might have an infection or other underlying acute illness.
Other underlying causes that can worsen Parkinson’s symptoms include:
- recent medication changes
- recent surgery or other medical procedures
- development of another medical condition
It’s important to let your doctor or healthcare professional know if you notice a sudden change in your Parkinson’s symptoms. These sudden changes aren’t typically a part of Parkinson’s progression and almost always signal an underlying issue.
Although the underlying issue might be as simple as a new medication you’re taking for a different medical condition or a recent procedure that’s already in your medical chart, it’s still best to talk about it with your doctor.
Tremors, especially in the hands and fingers, are the symptom most people associate with Parkinson’s disease, and tremors are a very common symptom of Parkinson’s — one that often develops early in the disease process. However, Parkinson’s causes a range of other symptoms in addition to tremors, such as:
- slowed motions
- slowed walking
- shuffled steps
- muscle stiffness
- muscle pain
- difficulty with balance
- stooped posture
- loss of control over body movements such as smiling and blinking
- speaking softly
- difficulty writing
Medication can help slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease and can help reduce symptoms. The primary medication for Parkinson’s disease is called levodopa (Sinemet).
Most formulations of levodopa are combined with carbidopa, which helps to reduce the side effects of levodopa and allows people to take smaller doses.
Sometimes, medications such as dopamine agonists and enzyme inhibitors are prescribed to help increase dopamine in the brain.
In many cases, doctors also prescribe medications to help with muscle pain, muscle rigidity, and tremors. This includes options such as amantadine and anticholinergic medications.
Learn more about medications to treat Parkinson’s.
Medications aren’t the only treatment options for Parkinson’s disease. Although they’re the primary treatment for most people, they’re often supplemented with options such as:
- physical therapy
- speech therapy
- occupational therapy
- massage therapy
- structured exercise
- nutrition therapy
Sometimes surgical interventions, such as deep brain stimulation, can be beneficial for treating Parkinson’s disease.
There are several known risk factors for Parkinson’s disease. These include:
- being over 60
- being assigned male at birth
- having a family member, or multiple family members, with Parkinson’s disease
- working in industries such as farming or welding
- being exposed to some herbicides and pesticides
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative condition. When someone has a degenerative condition, their symptoms get worse over time. With medication and other treatments available today, Parkinson’s doesn’t typically shorten a person’s lifespan, but it does often reduce the amount of time a person is able to live independently.
In the early stages of Parkinson’s, most people can care for themselves at home and maintain their daily activities. As symptoms progress, people with Parkinson’s have increasing difficulty with self-care, and it can become unsafe for them to live alone.
You can find out more about Parkinson’s by reading the answers to some common questions.
Is there a cure for Parkinson’s disease?
There’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease. However, treatment can help reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s runs in some families. In these families, Parkinson’s is genetic. However, the majority of people with Parkinson’s don’t have a family member with Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers don’t know for certain what causes Parkinson’s disease in these cases. People with Parkinson’s’ have clumps of abnormal proteins, called Lewy bodies, that build up in the brain and cause damage. However, researchers still don’t know why these proteins occur or buildup.
How does stress affect Parkinson’s symptoms?
Stress is one of several factors that can make Parkinson’s disease symptoms worse. People with Parkinson’s have noted that both acute stress and long-term stress aggravate symptoms. A 2021 study found that stress worsened all symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and that its strongest effect was on tremors.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive degenerative condition. The symptoms of Parkinson’s get worse over time. Unlike some conditions, they don’t come and go in episodes or flare-ups. Although it’s common for symptoms to fluctuate throughout the day, any sudden changes you notice over the course of days or weeks should always be reported to your doctor.
These sorts of changes aren’t an expected part of Parkinson’s disease. They’re typically signals of another underlying issue, such as an infection, stress, insomnia, or a recent medical procedure. That’s why it’s important to let your doctor know about symptom changes right away.