Parkinson’s Disease Complications

Around 50% of people with Parkinsons disease are also diagnosed with clinical depression. In many of them, the depression may occur months or years before Parkinsons is diagnosed.

While the anxiety and physical problems associated with having Parkinsons disease are stressful and frustrating, most doctors agree that the depression that often accompanies Parkinsons isnt a reaction to the diagnosis. Instead, they believe it is due to the changes in the brain that the disease causes. Proper treatment with antidepressants can alleviate the symptoms of depression.

A smaller percentage of those with Parkinsons ultimately develop dementia. This can be one of the most difficult complications for the family to deal with. Dementia is marked by memory loss, impaired judgment and personality changes. It is associated with the later stages of Parkinsons. Depression symptoms may also mimic dementia. If thats the case, the symptoms may disappear with treatment of the depression.

Some of the medications used to treat Parkinsons have side effects that can cause some complications of Parkinsons disease. The most common of these is dyskinesia- involuntary twitching or jerking of the arms or legs. Other side effects can include hallucinations, sleepiness and orthostatic hypotension, a drop in blood pressure when standing up which can result in dizziness and loss of balance.

Other complications of Parkinson’s disease include:

– Urinary problems: Some of the medications used to treat Parkinsons disease can cause difficulty in urinating, and Parkinsons may cause either incontinence or difficulty urinatined.

– Constipation: Because Parkinsons disease affects the involuntary muscle movements, the digestive process works more slowly. This often leads to constipation. Constipation can also be a side effect of the medications used to treat Parkinsons disease.

– Difficulty chewing and swallowing: The muscles you use to chew and swallow may be affected in the latter stages of Parkinsons disease. This can make eating difficult, and can lead to food being aspirated into the lungs.

– Difficulty sleeping: Among the sleep disorders associated with Parkinsons disease are restless sleep, difficulty falling asleep and frequent waking. People with Parkinsons may act out their dreams.

– Sexual Dysfunction: People with Parkinsons disease may experience a decrease in sexual desire. This may be a combination of physical factors and psychological factors, or it may result from physical factors alone.

– Anxiety or Panic Attacks: About 70% of Parkinsons patients with depression go on to develop anxiety. 90% of those with pre-existing diagnoses of depression go on to develop anxiety.

– Executive Dysfunction: Executive dysfunction is a precursor of dementia. Its characterized by difficulty with impulse control, assigning attention, subjective time awareness and interpreting social cues.

Image: Laurentiu Huianu, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHSFT. Wellcome Images

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