Parkinson’s disease: The three non-motor early symptoms of the condition found in the eyes

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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition whereby the signals communicated between the brain and nervous system are disrupted. This can cause a number of impairments, many of which relate to movement. However, there are a few non-motor symptoms to spot including those found in the eyes.

Difficulty moving the eyes

Parkinson’s can affect your ability to move parts of the body, including your eyes, said Parkinson’s UK.

The health charity explained: “You may have difficulties when starting to move your eyes or when trying to move them quickly.

“It may be more noticeable when looking at a fast-moving object, such as when watching moving cars or a tennis match. Sometimes, instead of a smooth movement, your eyes may move in a slow and jerky way.

“This can make certain activities, such as driving, more difficult. If this happens talk to your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse because Parkinson’s medication may help.”

Double vision

Double vision is seeing two images when you look at a single object. This can happen either some or all of the time. This can occur if someone has problems moving the eyes.

It adds: “Some people with Parkinson’s experience ‘tracking’.

“This is when the eyes do not move smoothly across a line or from one object to another, for example moving across a page when reading, or up and down. Poor co-ordination and fatigue of the muscles that move the eyeballs can also mean that the eyes do not quite move together. This can cause double vision.

“There are also causes of double vision (a common and usually minor eye condition) that are nothing to do with having Parkinson’s, such as thyroid problems, diabetes, or an astigmatism in one eye.

“If the problem continues, see your optometrist for advice. or ask your GP or specialist if you can be referred to an ophthalmologist for further tests.”

Problems with low light levels

Someone with Parkinson’s may find it difficult to see in low light levels.

The charity says: “You may also be unable to make out the shape of things clearly, such as a light-coloured object on a light background.

“This may also affect your ability to read fine print.”

Why this occurs

Parkinson’s disease is characterised by a loss of dopamine producing cells in the substantia nigra portion of the brain.

When this dopamine is reduced, the visual cortex can be affected.

Therefore, it’s not just one’s mobility which is impaired by either eyesight too.

Other non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include:

  • Weakening sense of smell and taste
  • Sleep disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Cognitive changes
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Gastrointestinal dysfunction
  • Urinary problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Pain.

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