When it comes to Parkinson’s, everyone’s experience is different. Exact symptoms may vary from person to person but generally worsen over time. In 1967, the Hoehn and Yahr system was created by doctors Hoehn and Yahr to classify patients into 5 stages based on motor symptoms and the ability to take care of themselves. Although it’s not currently the only system, it provides an easy-to-understand overview of how you might expect your case to progress.
In this stage, people with Parkinson’s typically see symptoms including mild tremors and slight difficulty walking. Others may notice fewer and less pronounced facial expressions. People in this stage generally don’t need much assistance. Symptoms in this stage often affect only one side of the body.
People in stage 2 start to see worsening symptoms affecting both sides of the body. This can include tremors and greater difficulty walking. Independence still exists, but tasks may take longer and are more difficult.
Balance and coordination are becoming significantly impaired in this stage and falls are now a greater concern. People in this stage are functionally impaired and unable to complete certain activities but can continue to live independently with the right tools and assistance.
At this point, the symptoms of Parkinson’s are fully developed and very limiting to physical activity. The person is able to walk and stand, but likely requires a walker or cane. People with Parkinson’s at this stage are typically unable to live alone.
In its most advanced stage, stiffness and impairment makes walking or standing extremely difficult. The person may not be able to leave bed and requires a wheelchair for mobility. The individual is unable to live independently, and around-the-clock care is probably required.
It is good to understand what to expect after your Parkinson’s diagnosis. While the Hoehn and Yahr scale focuses on motor symptoms, it’s important to remember Parkinson’s also involves non-motor symptoms which are also changing and progressing at the same time. Because everyone’s journey is a little different, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider for specific questions about your individual case.