Recognizing Non-Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease

More than 10 million people around the world have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, including one million in the United States. An average of 60,000 are diagnosed with PD every year, and many more are living with the devastating neurological disease without knowing it.

With numbers like these, it’s likely you or someone you love has been impacted by Parkinson’s disease in one way or another. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the disease through the efforts of people like Michael J. Fox, who has dedicated his life to promoting Parkinson’s disease awareness and research.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease which disrupts the signals in the brain. It is most recognized by its motor symptoms—specifically involuntary movements, shaking, stiffness or slowness. But research has shown that Parkinson’s disease also carries with it a bevy of non-motor symptoms, which, though not as noticeable, are just as debilitating. Non-motor symptoms are the traits of the disease that don’t involve movement, and don’t manifest physically.

“Because PD is known as a movement disorder, the non-motor symptoms can often be overlooked,” said Leslie Chambers, President and CEO of the American Parkinson Disease Association, “yet there are several common PD symptoms that do not primarily involve movement. If you, or someone in your life has PD, it is important to be aware of the non-motor symptoms as these can greatly affect quality of life, but if addressed early can often be treated and minimized.”

Read more about what the APDA has to say about Parkinson’s disease non-motor symptoms here.

Living with Non-Motor Symptoms?

Here’s a closer look at the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

  • Depression. Some people with Parkinson’s report a rise in depression, which is a sign of chemical changes in the brain due to the disease, and not necessarily a response to outside factors.
  • Anxiety. Likewise, levels of anxiety—feelings of helplessness or worry—can increase with the presence of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Cognitive changes. People with Parkinson’s can have a hard time paying attention or focusing on future plans. They can also have a hard time remembering things.
  • Hallucinations and delusions. A very scary symptom of Parkinson’s, hallucinations and delusions can cause people with Parkinson’s to behave erratically or display paranoia.
  • Loss of senses. Since Parkinson’s disease affects the neural connections in the brain, sometimes people with Parkinson’s report loss of taste, smell or even vision in varying degrees.
  • Pain. Though related to motor symptoms, pain is considered a non-motor symptom because it is largely unseen. Pain can exist in the joints, head or in the bones of people with Parkinson’s.
  • Sleep disorders. Insomnia, restless sleep and other sleep disorders are more unfortunate non-m
    otor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Sexual problems. People with Parkinson’s can experience erectile dysfunction and other problems that can disrupt their sexual activity.

Those are just a few of the more common non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. There are more.

It’s important to get a comprehensive view of both the motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease for a few different reasons.

  1. Knowing the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can help medical professionals and patients diagnose the disease quickly and early, which can help treatment efforts tremendously.
  2. A correct understanding of non-motor symptoms can help people with Parkinson’s deal with their disease better and be a little more forgiving.
  3. Caregivers, family, and friends will benefit from knowing the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by offering the right kind of assistance in the right ways, knowing that the person they love and care for is experiencing some major changes.

Non-motor symptoms are devastating and debilitating, and unfortunately most Parkinson’s disease treatments are focused on motor symptoms. There is a great need in the medical community for solutions and treatments for non-motor symptoms.

Moving Forward

PhotoPharmics is pioneering the use of phototherapy (or light therapy) to treat the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Our proprietary medical device was given breakthrough designation by the FDA and is entering phase 3 clinical trials this year.

To learn more about what PhotoPharmics is doing to help people with Parkinson’s, visit or sign up to keep in touch at


People with Parkinson’s discuss ways they cope with their disease

One simple question provokes fascinating discussion about ways to handle debilitating neurodegenerative disease.

PhotoPharmics recently learned the depth and breadth of ways people with Parkinson’s cope with the devastating disease when they asked a large group of them a simple question: What do you do to take your mind off Parkinson’s disease?

There were over 400 responses, and each response was put into one of eight different categories: physical and mental distractions, entertainment, exercise and sports, family and friends, games and puzzles, hobbies and leisure, religion and spirituality, work, and holistic or natural solutions.

The answers were insightful, varied and oftentimes inspiring. They offer a fascinating view of what it could be like inside the world of a unique and fiercely strong group of people. The most popular category was hobbies and leisure, which captured about 28 percent of the responses. Those in this group enjoy things like gardening, painting, writing and sewing.

“I try to keep myself busy,” said Mary Beth Longdon, who pinpointed cooking as a hobby she loves. “I love to cook, although it’s nothing complicated anymore. The pain is worth the pleasure so far.”

One respondent named Lisa said her collections help distract her from Parkinson’s. “I collect antique buttons,” she said. “Sorting them helps me relax.”

Another popular category was exercise. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, exercise is “a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and activities of daily living. Exercise and physical activity can improve many PD symptoms.”

51 responses, or 13 percent, mentioned sports and exercise as a way to distract from Parkinson’s disease. Responses included things like golf, boxing, swimming, hiking, stationary bikes and more.

Lauri Ohleger mentioned several ways she stays active: “Ride bikes, hiking, the gym, boxing; staying active in both mind and body!”

Here’s the full breakdown of responses:

  • Hobbies and leisure: 32 percent. People listed many different hobbies like gardening, painting and collections.
  • Entertainment: 15 percent. Entertainment includes movies, television, music and books.
  • Exercise/sports: 14 percent. The third-most popular category for responses.
  • Games and puzzles: 8 percent. Things like jigsaw puzzles and card games were popular responses.
  • Work: 8 percent. Some people with Parkinson’s found work a pleasant distraction.
  • Physical and mental distractions: 7 percent. These responses included things like alcohol and other depressants, as well as scrolling through social media.
  • Family and friends: 7 percent. These respondents found comfort being with loved ones.
  • Religion/spirituality: 5 percent. Prayers, meditation and ministering were the popular responses in this category.
  • Natural/holistic solutions: 3 percent. This category includes things like massage and other natural therapies.

“There’s no question Parkinson’s disease brings many challenges for people,” said Brett Walker, a spokesperson for PhotoPharmics. “And while PhotoPharmics is heavily invested in using phototherapy to treat it, we are also immensely interested in how people with Parkinson’s cope with their disease on a daily basis. Gathering information like this, however informal, gives us a glimpse into the lives of a group of people about whom we care a great deal.”

The neurodegenerative disease manifests itself in dozens of different ways, including physical (or motor) symptoms, like stiffness, rigidity and an involuntary tremor; and non-motor symptoms, like depression, delusions and anxiety.

But the resiliency and determination of people with Parkinson’s cannot be understated. These courageous men and women, “warriors” as they like to call themselves, face their condition every day and choose to fight.

Perhaps their attitude can best be summed-up by one respondent who simply said, “I get busy and dare Parkinson’s to keep up.”

About PhotoPharmics

PhotoPharmics is a privately held, clinical-stage medical device company developing next-generation treatments for treating neurodegenerative disorders through the eyes. Company founders have 30+ years of research and experience in this field. They previously developed specialized light solutions now widely used to regulate circadian rhythms in seasonal affective disorder, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression (acquired by Philips-Respironics in 2007).

Drawing from research and recent trials, PhotoPharmics is developing applications of specialized light across several neurodegenerative diseases. The company aims to make a clinically meaningful difference in patients’ lives by delivering safe and effective non-invasive treatments. Investor inquiries are welcomed. Learn more at

Survey reveals Parkinson’s disease non-motor symptoms manifest first

Parkinson’s disease is best recognized by its motor symptoms—namely tremor. But it surprised our research team, and it may surprise you as well, to learn that 87 percent of people with Parkinson’s surveyed said they noticed non-motor symptoms first; and 78 percent said they noticed non-motor symptoms even before they were formally diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

We conducted the informal survey on Facebook. The simple, single-question survey asked: “When did you first experience non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (pain, depression, insomnia, anxiety, etc.)?” We received over 100 responses, broken down as follows:

  • 78 percent of respondents said they experienced non-motor symptoms before motor symptoms, and before their formal Parkinson’s diagnosis
  • 9 percent said they experienced non-motor symptoms after PD diagnosis, but before motor symptoms
  • 11 percent said they experienced non-motor symptoms after PD diagnosis, and after motor symptoms
  • 2 percent said they had never heard of or experienced non-motor symptoms

“With such a high percentage of people with Parkinson’s recognizing non-motor symptoms, it’s no wonder the International Movement Disorder Society has declared addressing non-motor symptoms a top priority,” said Brett Walker, spokesman with PhotoPharmics, a Utah medical device company working to address neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson’s. “Simple studies like ours provide interesting insight into what it might be like to live through the Parkinson’s disease experience.”

A leader in the fight against Parkinson’s, the Parkinson’s Foundation states, “it’s important to realize that non-motor symptoms are common and can be more troublesome and disabling than motor symptoms. That’s why you should watch for these symptoms and discuss early changes with your doctor.” lists non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as (but not limited to) depression, anxiety, delusions, hallucinations, insomnia, incontinence, pain, loss of senses, sexual problems, and more.

More than ten million people worldwide have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and as this and other surveys suggest, potentially countless others are suffering without formal diagnosis.

To this end, PhotoPharmics is extending its 30-year track record in light therapy innovation to address the troubling non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease with a new specialized phototherapy device. This device, which recently received Breakthrough Device Designation by the FDA, uses light in proprietary frequencies and intensities to stimulate the photoreceptors in the brain and help regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm and curb the neurodegenerative effects of Parkinson’s disease.

“Very few device companies receive FDA Breakthrough Device Designation. Our device is the first specialized phototherapy device to achieve this status,” said Kent Savage, CEO of PhotoPharmics. “Our focus is to help people with Parkinson’s improve function and return to what they enjoy doing most. We think this recognition by FDA validates our work.”

The device is slated to undergo phase-three clinical trials later this year. To learn more about what PhotoPharmics is doing to address the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, visit