Complications of Parkinson’s Disease

Complications may arise in any diseases if left untreated or as it progresses and Parkinson’s disease is no different. These complications may be associated with PD itself as it gets worse, arise as a side effect from the medication being used for PD or at times arise separately due to the effects of Parkinson’s disease on various aspects of life and health (secondary). Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal but some of the complications could be and therefore proper care and vigilance is necessary. Identifying these complications as early as possible and seeking treatment where possible can greatly reduce the severity of the complication.


Depression in Parkinson’s disease is common and is largely due to the impact of being diagnosed with the disease, the prognosis and living with PD. People who were otherwise independent may find that the disease can ‘rob’ them of their normal level of functioning and force them to become more dependent on others. Parkinson’s disease not only affects the life of the patient but impacts on interpersonal relationships and the lives of loved one’s and the impact of this can also lead to depression. Read more on depression and Parkinson’s disease.

Difficulty Swallowing

The progressive muscle loss in Parkinson’s disease, both of the muscles under voluntary and involuntary control, affects various functions. Swallowing and chewing are some of these activities that are affected to varying degrees in Parkinson’s disease. The danger with this complication lies in the risk of choking, particularly on larger particles of food that have not been chewed properly. In addition, difficulty and chewing may discourage food intake and cause secondary complications related to nutrition. Read more on difficulty swallowing in Parkinson’s disease.

Sleep Problems

Problems with sleep are a common complaint of PD patients. It may be directly related to the low dopamine levels, a side effect of PD medication or arise secondary to depression and dementia. The sleeping problems are not only related to difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep (insomnia) but also with excessive daytime sleepiness. It may also be related to other problems at night like the need to urinate frequently which may disturb sleep and nightmares. Read more on sleeping problems in Parkinson’s disease.

Urinary Problems

Urinary incontinence or retention are not uncommon in Parkinson’s disease. The bladder is a muscular hollow sac and loss of voluntary and involuntary muscle control in PD can affect urinary function. This may also be a consequence of certain medication, prostate problems in men or immobility which affects the ability to reach a toilet. Read more on urinary disturbances in Parkinson’s disease.

Sexual Dysfunction

A decrease in sex drive (libido) may be due to a combination of physical and psychological factors in Parkinson’s disease. It is more commonly seen in men with PD. This can happen in many other chronic conditions and can also be a consequence of depression in PD and the use of certain PD medication. However, another extreme is hypersexuality which may be seen with the use of certain PD drugs. This is discussed further under compulsive behavior in Parkinson’s disease.

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