People are generally most familiar with the movement-oriented, or “motor” symptoms of Parkinson's disease, as they are the most evident external evidence of the disease. These symptoms, which are also called the "cardinal" symptoms of PD, can be remembered by using the acronym “TRAP”:
(T)remor – usually a resting tremor, often in the hands, arms, legs, torso, or lips and face. The tremor tends to be relatively slow, about 4-6 cycles per second, and often shows a “pill-rolling” movement in the hands and fingers.
(R)igidity – muscular stiffness and tightness, often displaying a “start and stop” jerky motion called “cogwheel rigidity” when a limb is manually moved.
(A)kinesia or bradykinesia – lack of movement or extreme slowness in movement.
(P)ostural instability – limping, shuffling gait, or balance problems, often resulting in falls.
Lack of facial expression is also a common characteristic resulting from the four cardinal symptoms.
Also important are the non-movement symptoms of PD, sometimes called "non-motor" or "dopamine non-responsive" symptoms. These common symptoms can have a major impact on people with PD. For example, cognitive impairment, ranging from mild memory difficulties to dementia, and mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, occur frequently, particularly in people with Parkinson’s (PWPs) with later onset. Also common are sleep difficulties, loss of sense of smell, constipation, speech and swallowing problems, unexplained pains, drooling, and low blood pressure when standing.
Not all PWPs experience the same symptoms, have the same rate of progression, or respond to treatment the same way. These facts lead to the common saying, “when you’ve seen one person with Parkinson’s, you’ve seen one person with Parkinson’s.” Each case tends to be different.