Before the classic movement problems of Parkinson's disease appear, more benign-seeming symptoms -- such as anxiety and drooling -- may occur, according to a new study in the journal Neurology.
"These results show that Parkinson's affects many systems in the body, even in its earliest stages," study researcher Tien K. Khoo, Ph.D., of the UK's Newcastle University, said in a statement. "Often these symptoms affect people's quality of life just as much if not more than the movement problems that come with the disease. Both doctors and patients need to bring these symptoms up and consider available treatments."
For the study, researchers asked 159 people who had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's -- as well as 99 age-matched people without Parkinson's -- to report whether they'd experienced any of 30 potential non-motor symptoms. These issues ranged from problems sleeping, to digestive issues, to sexual problems.
Researchers found that the people who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's experience an average of eight of these problems, while those without Parkinson's experienced an average of three problems.
The most common symptoms experienced by the people with Parkinson's included drooling (56 percent of people with Parkinson's, versus 6 percent without the condition), constipation (experienced by 42 percent of people with Parkinson's, compared with 7 percent without the condition), and anxiety (experienced by 43 percent of people with Parkinson's, compared with 10 percent of those without the condition).
Parkinson's disease affects up to 1 million people in the U.S., and about 60,000 people are diagnosed with the condition each year in this country, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Signs usually include tremors, problems with walking, muscle stiffness, slowed movement, changes in speaking and the loss of the ability to do "automatic movements" (like blinking), the Mayo Clinic reported, though early signs of Parkinson's can be so slight that they go unnoticed.