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This guide was originally published on The Mighty

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects your body’s ability to produce dopamine, a chemical found in your brain that helps you initiate and control your movements. This causes symptoms like uncontrollable shaking in your limbs (known as a tremor), slow movement, a rigid, stiff feeling in your body, unsteady gait and posture, as well as symptoms unrelated to movement like loss of smell, constipation, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, cognitive challenges and blood pressure issues. Parkinson’s most frequently develops in people over age 50, but can also appear in younger individuals, too.

You might feel stiff, like it’s hard to move your muscles, and maybe you have uncontrollable shaking in one or more of your limbs or fingers. You might also feel fatigued and have difficulty feeling motivated to get up. Everyday tasks like brushing your teeth, putting on your clothes, cooking and driving a car might be a struggle due to the stiffness and slowness of your muscles. Perhaps family members have noticed you don’t swing one of your arms when you walk.

Feeling unsteady when you walk and feeling like you can’t move as quickly as you want could be everyday occurrences along with other challenges like constipation, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, a weak sense of smell, having a soft voice and a bent-over posture. Taking certain medications helps wake your muscles up and gets you moving with more ease and less sluggishness. Without that help, though (and, sometimes despite taking medications), moving the way you used to is challenging, as you constantly feel a sense of slowness, stiffness and/or shaking (you might experience some or all of these symptoms). If this describes your experience, you may be living with Parkinson’s disease.

When people think of Parkinson’s disease, the first (and often only) thing that comes to mind is its most well-known symptom: a tremor in your hand. But as anyone who has Parkinson’s disease knows, there’s so much more to the condition than that. This is a condition that can cause both invisible and visible symptoms, physical and emotional impacts. It affects each person in a unique way. Two people can have two completely different experiences — and both are completely valid.

Read the entire guide on The Mighty.