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Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition that affects a wide range of functions. The changes that occur can have a significant impact on the physical and mental aspects of a person’s life.
The hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremors, slow movements, and rigidity. A person may also have difficulty with coordination, various non-motor symptoms, and other complications.
However, there are ways to manage many of these complications. Doing so effectively can contribute to a better quality of life for a person with Parkinson’s disease.
Learn more about some of the complications associated with Parkinson’s disease and what to do about them.
As Parkinson’s disease affects the muscles, a person’s speech can become softer and more difficult to understand. Over time, changes in thinking ability can also make it harder for them to communicate. Social and other activities can become challenging.
One study from 2017 notes that speech therapy is important for helping people continue to communicate effectively. This can help improve or maintain a person’s quality of life.
Chewing and swallowing difficulties can also occur, especially during the later stages of the condition. These can result from changes in the autonomic nervous system or the muscles in the throat, known as the pharyngeal muscles.
These changes increase the risk of food getting stuck in the throat and choking, which can be life threatening. If the person accidentally breathes food particles into the lungs, pneumonia can result.
A person may also produce too much saliva, or they may not be able to swallow the saliva easily. This can lead to drooling, which they may find embarrassing.
Some medications may improve these symptoms. Also, a
Depression can occur with Parkinson’s disease, and it can make the symptoms worse.
Some researchers suggest that around
Some other neuropsychiatric symptoms include:
However, the symptoms of depression are treatable, and recovery is possible.
Seeking medical help when the symptoms of depression start to appear can give the person a better quality of life, improved functionality, and a chance of slowing the symptoms.
Various factors in Parkinson’s disease can affect libido. A person may find it hard to have an orgasm or an erection.
The drop in sexual interest and physical functioning can happen because of a fall in dopamine levels, according to the American Parkinson Disease Association.
The impacts of this include:
- a reduction in physical movement
- reduced circulation, which affects the ability to have an erection
- a lack of climax
Vaginal dryness can also be a problem.
Depression and anxiety can reduce a person’s energy levels and their interest in things they used to enjoy, such as sex. Fatigue may also be a factor.
Depression and mood changes can also cause changes in behavior and attitude. A partner may feel that their loved one is “not the same” as before, for example.
In rare cases, medications that increase dopamine levels in people with Parkinson’s disease may increase the person’s sex drive to an unusual level. Although this is rare, it can become a problem for some people.
Treatment is available for many of the symptoms that can disrupt sexual activity. For example:
- Try seeking treatment for other symptoms and complications.
- Lubrication can help with vaginal dryness.
- Counseling may help resolve tensions within a relationship.
It is important for a partner to remember that their loved one is the same person and for both partners to communicate how they feel, if possible.
If a person experiences erectile dysfunction, a doctor may prescribe:
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- vardenafil (Levitra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- injectable medications, such as alprostadil (Caverject)
- mechanical devices, such as vacuum pumps and penile implants
Parkinson’s disease can affect how the body regulates sleep and wakefulness, but physical problems can also make sleeping difficult.
Some examples of sleep-related issues include:
- sleep apnea
- daytime sleepiness
- nightmares and vivid dreams, which may lead to dream enactment
- restless legs or jerking leg movements
- difficulty turning over in bed
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- difficulty getting back to sleep after waking up
Possible reasons for these issues include:
- the effect of certain medications
- physical discomfort
- changes to the internal body clock
A doctor may suggest:
- trying drug treatments, such as melatonin or eszopiclone
- undergoing light therapy
- trying positive airway pressure (for people with sleep apnea), though this is controversial due to possible safety issues
- removing objects from around the bed to prevent injury
Some lifestyle tips for better or safer sleep include:
- following a regular bedtime routine, if possible
- exercising outdoors during the day, if possible
- avoiding coffee, alcohol, and other stimulants
- using the bedroom only for sleeping
- sleeping in a cool, dark room
Around 30–40% of people with Parkinson’s disease experience urinary problems. They may leak urine, need to urinate more often, or find it difficult to pass urine. Changes in the autonomic nervous system are one reason why this happens.
To reduce the need to go to the bathroom at night, it might be useful to:
- Stop drinking fluids 3 hours before bedtime.
- Visit the bathroom just before going to bed.
- Ask a doctor about medications to help manage urination.
A person may also wish to put a commode near the bed to minimize movement.
A doctor can help find a solution. Medications that may help include:
- oxybutynin (Ditropan)
- tolterodine (Detrol)
- solifenacin (Vesicare)
- darifenacin (Enablex)
Discreet pads are available from pharmacies or for purchase online.
Some reasons for this may include:
- muscle weakness
- a possible reduction in fluid intake
- side effects of certain medications
- the impact of Parkinson’s disease on the autonomic nervous system, which includes the digestive system
In turn, constipation can increase anxiety and discomfort and further reduce the person’s quality of life.
Some possible solutions to this problem might include:
- taking medications, such as laxatives
- trying dietetic interventions, including probiotics and prebiotics
- increasing fiber and fluid intakes
- undergoing physical therapy
A person should speak with a doctor before taking any medications for constipation, as some drugs and alternative remedies can interfere with other medications.
Changes to proteins in the brain, such as Lewy bodies, can lead to dementia in Parkinson’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 50–80% of people with Parkinson’s disease eventually develop dementia. On average, this takes around 10 years from when symptoms first appear.
Some common symptoms include:
- difficulty remembering things, focusing, and making judgments
- unclear speech
- hallucinations and delusions
- depression, irritability, and anxiety
- sleep difficulties and daytime sleepiness
Medication can help slow the progress of dementia, but the symptoms usually become more severe over time.
Pain is a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Figures in one report suggest that over
According to the same report, 40–90% of the physical pain associated with Parkinson’s disease is musculoskeletal, and people mostly describe the sensation as burning, cramping, or aching.
Some ways of reducing the pain include:
- taking over-the-counter or prescription medications
- trying massage, music therapy, tai chi, or other complementary therapies
- undergoing spinal cord stimulation
Individuals can work with a healthcare team to find suitable ways of reducing pain.
One problem is orthostatic hypotension, which refers to a drop in blood pressure that causes a person to feel dizzy or faint when they stand up. This can lead to falls.
Some people also experience high blood pressure, such as at night or when lying down. These fluctuations can lead to heart problems.
A doctor may be able to prescribe a medication to stabilize blood pressure and prevent dramatic changes. Wearing compression stockings may also help.
This is an early symptom of the condition, and it can occur years before other symptoms appear. Doctors see it as a possible predictor of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease can lead to a wide range of symptoms, but there are also many possible complications.
The medications that doctors prescribe to treat Parkinson’s disease can also lead to certain adverse effects, some of which overlap with the symptoms and complications of the condition itself.
Staying in touch with a healthcare team can help manage the symptoms, complications, and changes associated with Parkinson’s disease as they arise.