Due to the nature of Parkinson’s disease, falls are a fairly common occurrence mainly due to instability with the posture and impaired gait. It has a host of complications as would frequent falls in any person, irrespective of Parkinson’s disease. However, bearing in mind that most Parkinson’s disease patients are older, the impact of these frequent falls can have severe consequences. Understanding the dangers associated with frequent falls and minimizing it is of the utmost importance.
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.
Loss of taste or smell can occur over a period of time in Parkinson’s disease but it may be so gradual as to remain undetected in many patients. Some studies have shown that impaired sensation of smell may occur in a PD patient even long before the development of motor symptoms. Disorders of taste (gustatory) and smell (olfactory) may occur normally with advancing years but suffering from a neurodegenerative disorder such as Parkinson’s disease seems to increase chances of such disorders.
Although the characteristic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) involve motor functions such as tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement and loss of postural reflex, there are other neurological and psychiatric symptoms present in later stages of the disease which point to definite changes in brain function and personality of PD patients.
Parkinson’s disease can be very demanding on the caregivers, especially in the end stages of Parkinson’s disease, when the patient is wheelchair bound or absolutely bedridden. This is the time when extra precautions have to be taken to prevent bedsore formation. Bedsores (also called pressure sores or decubitus ulcers) can be extremely painful and usually develop as a result of prolonged immobilization. It is better to take precautions to prevent bedsore formation because once they develop they can progress very fast and then become extremely difficult to heal.
Due to the progressive loss of muscle control – both voluntary and involuntary – many other symptoms can develop in a patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease besides the typical symptoms of tremor and rigidity. Dysphagia is one such symptom. Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing is a common problem in people with Parkinson’s disease which can have far-reaching consequences. Dysphagia can lead to shorter survival time in a patient with Parkinson’s disease, not only because the affected muscles of the throat may make swallowing difficult – hence less food intake and increased chances of under-nutrition of the patient – but also because it increases the possibility of aspiration pneumonia.
There are innumerable minor, but nonetheless quite distressing, symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, with skin problems being one of them. Some of these skin problems may be due to the disease itself although drug therapy for Parkinson’s disease is often responsible. While the side effects of these medicines do cause significant distress at times, it is important to note that the drugs are essential in managing Parkinson’s disease and should not be stopped or changed without your doctor’s approval.
Although tremor and rigidity are the typical symptoms of a patient with Parkinson’s disease, eye problems are quite common too, and are important because they can interfere with the quality of life of a person. When faced with eye disorders or vision problems in patients with Parkinson’s disease, it is important to bear in mind that some of these conditions may not be related to Parkinson’s. Old age, poor eyesight, complication from other chronic conditions, like diabetes, may impact on the eyesight in any person, even when Parkinson’s disease is not present.
Speech problem or difficulty in speaking (dysarthria) is one of the most common symptoms that develop in a patient with Parkinson’s disease besides the major symptoms such as tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement and loss of postural reflexes. It is estimated that about 60 to 90 percent of patients with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty with their speech, which may take various forms such as a soft, monotonous, or slurred speech, speaking too fast or repeating words, or sometimes hesitating before speaking. Problems with speech can be due to reduced movement of the muscles involved in breathing, talking and voice intonation as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
Weight loss is common in Parkinson’s disease but the exact cause may not always be obvious as it can occur both in the early or late stage of the disease. The basic problem leading to weight loss is that the calorie intake through food is less than the calories used up through hyperkinetic movements, such as tremors. The need for a sufficient calorie intake through a healthy and balanced diet for a person with Parkinson’s disease is essential to prevent significant weight loss.