Parkinson’s: The change in your blinking which is an ‘often overlooked’ sign

Billy Connolly says he can't use his left hand due to Parkinson's

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You should see your GP if you’re concerned you may have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It’s thought around one in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s disease, with men being slightly more likely to get Parkinson’s disease than women. Parkinson’s UK says: “People with Parkinson’s often experience problems with their eyes and eyesight as a result. But eye problems may also be unrelated to your Parkinson’s.”

The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) says as a result of Parkinson’s, “the eyes can experience diminished movement capabilities”.

It explains blinking can slow from 16 to 18 times per minute to one to two times per minute, leading to a condition called “dry eyes”.

It adds: “Another common eye movement issue for people with PD is difficulty with vergence eye movements. In PD, the eyes are often not able to come together sufficiently as a target draws near.”

The APDA explains: “This is called convergence insufficiency, which can cause double vision, especially when focusing on near tasks. This problem can also affect a person’s ability to read.”

Parkinson’s UK says: “Some people with Parkinson’s have difficulty telling the difference between certain colours.

“It adds: “You might find that it’s difficult to see in low light levels. You may also be unable to make out the shape of things clearly, such as a light-coloured object on a light background. This can also affect your ability to read small print.”

The NHS notes: “A person with Parkinson’s disease can also experience a wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms.”

The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are shaking (tremors), slow movements and stiffness.

The Parkinson’s Foundation notes that some symptoms, such as loss of smell, constipation, depression and REM sleep behaviour disorder “can occur years before the diagnosis”.

Although there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, early diagnosis is important so patients can receive the proper treatment and advice regarding care.

The NHS notes: “Most people with Parkinson’s start to develop symptoms when they’re over 50, although around one in 20 people with the condition first experience symptoms when they’re under 40.”

Researchers do not yet know exactly why people get Parkinson’s, but it is thought that a combination of age, genetic and environmental factors cause the dopamine-producing nerve cells to die.

Parkinson’s UK says that around 145,000 people live with Parkinson’s in the UK, and that it is “the fastest growing neurological condition in the world”.

It explains that Parkinson’s develops when cells in the brain stop working properly and are lost over time. These brain cells produce a chemical called dopamine.

“Symptoms start to appear when the brain can’t make enough dopamine to control movement properly,” the charity says.

There are many different therapies and factors that can help in managing the condition, the NHS says.

Indeed, you may not need any treatment during the early stages of Parkinson’s disease as symptoms are usually mild.

Doing 2.5 hours of exercise a week can slow the progression of your symptoms, according to Parkinson’s UK.

It adds: “Medication can be used to improve the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as shaking (tremors) and movement problems.

“But not all the medications available are useful for everyone, and the short- and long-term effects of each are different.”

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