Parkinson's disease is a progressive disease, meaning that it will get worse over time. The primary Parkinson's disease symptoms - tremors, muscle rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and postural instability - may be mild at first, but will gradually become more intense and debilitating.
How Parkinson's Disease Symptoms Progress
The progression of Parkinson's disease symptoms can take 20 years or even longer. But the rate of progression varies from person to person.
To give patients an idea about how far their disease has progressed, many doctors use the Hoehn and Yahr scale for the staging of Parkinson's disease, which is broken down into the following stages:
Stage one: Parkinson's disease symptoms affect only one side of the body.
Stage two: Symptoms begin affecting both sides of the body, but balance is still intact.
Stage three: Parkinson's disease symptoms are mild to moderate and balance is impaired, but the person can still function independently.
Stage four: People with stage four Parkinson's disease are severely disabled, but they can still walk or stand without assistance.
Stage five: The patient becomes wheelchair-bound or bedridden, unless someone is helping him.
While your doctor may be able to tell you how far along you are on this scale, there is no accurate way of predicting how soon you will get to the next stage. However, you can expect that as you notice your symptoms worsening, your physical functioning will also start to decline.