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Parkinson’s Disease Stages

Parkinson’s disease is a type of degenerative disorder that typically occurs in individuals over age 60, however, early onset can appear as early as 20 years old. The disease manifests in many ways but is characterized by involuntary tremors in the head, hands, jaw, and legs.

Parkinson’s disease progresses into five stages which reveal worsening and additional symptoms over time. In this article, we’ll discuss the five stages as well as their primary symptoms and differences.


What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic illness that is typically marked by the presence and progression of specific, recognizable symptoms, such as an involuntary tremor and changes in speech and gait.

If you’ve ever wondered, “why do old people shake?”, it could be due to Parkinson’s. However, it’s important to note that Essential Tremor (ET) is one of the most common types of tremors and ET and Parkinson’s have several key differences.

Individuals who develop Parkinson’s disease may develop speaking issues, have a difficult time controlling their shaking, and struggle with coordination. At the same time, Parkinson’s disease does not show up the same way in everyone. Furthermore, Parkinson’s disease can progress gradually over time. This means that the symptoms could change as the disease continues to move forward through its five stages. Many medical professionals rely on this standard rating system to not only diagnose but also evaluate the progression of the illness.

What are the 5 stages of Parkinson’s disease?

Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

The 5 stages of Parkinson’s disease include:

Stage 1

Stage 1 is the mildest form of the disease. There might be symptoms, but they usually are not severe enough to interfere with someone’s overall quality of life.  Individuals with Stage 1 Parkinson’s can usually perform daily tasks like, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry with little to no difficulty.

It is not unusual for the symptoms to be so mild that they are often overlooked; however, there are a few symptoms that are characteristic of Stage 1. For example, individuals who are in Stage 1 may have family members and friends who notice changes in posture, gait, and facial expressions. Additionally, tremors typically show up exclusively on one side of the body. In general, prescribed medications can mitigate Stage 1 tremors.

Stage 2

When someone progresses from Stage 1 to Stage 2, the symptoms become more noticeable. Stage 2 is usually considered moderate Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms are much more noticeable, and they can start to have an impact on someone’s daily life. For example, trembling, tremors, and stiffness become easier to spot. People will also notice significant changes in their facial expressions.

This muscle stiffness can make it harder for someone to complete their activities of daily living in a timely manner. As a result, it has an impact on their overall quality of life. On the other hand, Stage 2 Parkinson’s disease does not usually impair balance.

Typically, the symptoms of Stage 2 Parkinson’s disease show up on both sides of the body. They can also make it harder for someone to speak. Even though people who are in either Stage 1 or Stage 2 Parkinson’s disease can live alone, life becomes harder in Stage 2.

Stage 3

Within Stage 3 of Parkinson’s disease, there is a marked change in symptoms. Even though many of the symptoms are still the same as in Stage 2, they become more severe. This means that individuals will likely have increased  postural challenges that may make it difficult to sit or stand upright. Their reflexes will start to slow, and it will take people a very long time to complete their activities of daily living. In particular, falls become much more common. People with Stage 3 Parkinson’s disease have significant balance difficulties, and it will take them longer to complete routine tasks. Even though occupational therapy and medication can help treat symptoms, they will not eliminate them.

Stage 4

When Parkinson’s disease progresses to Stage 4, it becomes very difficult for individuals to live alone. Even though people with Stage 4 Parkinson’s disease are able to stand up on their own, they typically require assistive devices to walk. This could include a cane or a walker. As a result, living alone with Stage 4 Parkinson’s disease is nearly impossible. Daily tasks are very difficult to complete, and living alone can be exceedingly dangerous.

Stage 5

Stage 5 is the final progression of Parkinson’s disease. It is the most advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease, and it is where the symptoms are most severe. People with late-stage Parkinson’s disease can freeze upon standing. What this means is that it will become very difficult for them to stand or walk. During the final stages of Parkinson’s disease, it is very hard for someone to stand on their own without falling over. Therefore, they require care at all times. There are also psychiatric symptoms that can develop during late-stage Parkinson’s disease. Examples include delusions, hallucinations, and confusion. It is not unusual for people to develop dementia during the final stages of Parkinson’s disease.

How To Manage Parkinson’s Disease

There are several ways people with Parkinson’s disease can manage the symptoms. First, people with Parkinson’s disease need to see a doctor as quickly as possible. The sooner they get diagnosed, the faster they can get the treatment they need. For example, there are certain medications that may be able to blunt certain symptoms or slow their progression early during the course of the illness.

Individuals  with Parkinson’s disease should also invest in assistive devices that can make their activities of daily living easier. For example, walkers and canes can make it easier for people with Parkinson’s disease to balance, reducing the risk of falling.

Finally, it is helpful for people with Parkinson’s disease to have social support as well. Living with a family member, or having home nursing care, can be helpful for managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as well as mitigating some of the risks, like falling.

Parkinson’s Disease Stages: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs that Parkinson’s is getting worse?

There are several indications that could mean that Parkinson’s disease is getting worse. For example, if someone is taking longer to complete their activities of daily living, the illness could be getting worse. Or, if someone who was previously able to walk is now having a difficult time balancing on their own, this is a sign that Parkinson’s disease is getting worse.

How fast does Parkinson’s disease progress?

It is difficult to predict exactly how fast Parkinson’s disease will progress. There are a lot of factors that play a role, including the quality of the medical care that someone receives. There are some people who may progress from Stage 1 to Stage 2 in a few months, but there are other people who may take years to make it through this transition. It could take decades for someone to go from Stage 1 all the way to Stage 5.

What are the final stages of Parkinson’s disease?

The final stages of this illness are marked by a total loss of independence, extreme difficulty standing, and the development of psychiatric symptoms. Someone with Parkinson’s disease who has reached Stage 5 could spontaneously freeze when they stand up. They might also develop symptoms of dementia, hallucinations, and delusions.

Cala TAPS therapy Help With Essential Tremor

When looking at Essential Tremor vs. Parkinson’s disease, it is important to remember tremors are common with Parkinson’s disease, but Essential Tremor does not have the other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease discussed above. If you are looking for help with Essential Tremor, consider Cala TAPS therapy’s innovative technology.

Our wrist-worn device calibrates to your unique tremor, stimulating the wrist nerves with electricity to target the cause of Essential Tremor. These gentle waves of electricity alleviate tremor symptoms with as little as 40 minutes of wear. For more information on this FDA approved therapy, talk to your doctor today.