Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
HomeTreatmentsIs Parkinson's Disease Fatal

Is Parkinson’s Disease Fatal

If You Live In South Jersey And Have Questions About The Final Stages Of Parkinsons Disease Or Hospice Care For Your Loved One Please Call Samaritan At 229

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Samaritan is a member of the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation, a network of not-for-profit hospice and palliative providers across the country. If you know someone outside of our service area who is living with advanced illness and can benefit from hospice or palliative care, please call 1 -GET-NPHI  for a referral to a not-for-profit provider in your area.

One In Every 500 People Has Parkinson’s It Is A Progressive Neurological Condition That Limits Movement Here Are The Most Common Signs And Symptoms

Tremor – One of the most noticeable signs of Parkinson’s is a tremor that often starts in the hands or fingers when they are relaxed

Occupational therapists identify areas of difficulty in everyday life, such as getting dressed or getting to the local shops.

They help work out practical solutions and ensure the home is safe and properly set up, aiming to help sufferers maintain independence for as long as possible.

Speech and language therapists will teach speaking and swallowing exercises, in order to help sufferers with speech and swallowing difficulties.

Medication can also be provided to improve movement problems. The three main types are levodopa, dopamine agonists and monoamine oxidase-B inhibitors.

In some cases, sufferers of Parkinson’s disease may receive a type of surgery called deep brain stimulation.

Deep brain stimulation involves surgically implanting a pulse generator, which is connected to one or two fine wires placed under the skin, and is inserted precisely into specific areas in the brain.

How Can Hospice Help Your Loved One In The Final Stages Of Parkinsons Disease

Hospice care is an extra layer of support to help you care for your loved one with end-stage Parkinson’s disease. It is a special kind of care that provides comfort, support, and dignity at the end of life.

The comprehensive program focuses on physical, emotional, and spiritual quality of life through the help of a team of experts. The team includes a board-certified physician, nurse, social worker, certified home health aide , spiritual support counselor, and volunteer.

The nurse will explain the prognosis and what to expect in the upcoming days or weeks. They will also monitor pain and other symptoms. The CHHA helps with personal care needs like bathing and changing bed linens. The social worker helps address social, emotional and practical challenges including complex and inter-related needs. The spiritual support counselor helps explore spiritual concerns.

Most importantly, the hospice team will be there for you during this difficult time,  bringing you peace of mind. The team is on call 24 hours a day – even at 2:00 am.

Hospice is about making your final months and weeks as good as possible. This means focusing on what really matters to you.

What Is The Prognosis And Life Expectancy For Parkinson’s Disease

The severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs vary greatly from person to peson, and it is not possible to predict how quickly the disease will progress. Parkinson’s disease itself is not a fatal disease, and the average life expectancy is similar to that of people without the disease. Secondary complications, such as pneumonia, falling-related injuries, and choking can lead to death. Many treatment options can reduce some of the symptoms and prolong the quality of life.

What Is The Main Cause Of Death In Parkinsons Disease Patients

Is Parkinson’s Disease Fatal? Life Expectancy for ...

Parkinson’s is often referred to as a “bespoke” disease because it affects each patient differently. Another factor worth considering is that Parkinson’s disease generally affects people in their 60s, most of whom die of unrelated conditions such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. However, the most common cause of death in those with Parkinson’s disease is pneumonia. This is because the disease can impair your ability to swallow in the later stages, putting you at risk for aspirating food or liquid into the lungs.

Is Parkinsons Disease Fatal Life Expectancy For Parkinsons Emma-Marie Smith

Worried about your Parkinson’s disease life expectancy? A Parkinson’s disease diagnosis comes with many worries and anxieties. One worry concerns the progression of the disease and whether Parkinson’s disease can be fatal. The issue is rarely straightforward, but there is no reason to think your condition is a death sentence. Many people live for years or decades with their Parkinson’s disease symptoms under control, while the illness progresses more quickly for others. It’s important that you know what to expect when you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and air your concerns to your doctor. For now, let’s explore the issue of life expectancy of patients with Parkinson’s disease and address some common concerns.

How Can Falls Resulting From Parkinsons Disease Be Fatal

Patients with Parkinson’s disease are seen to be at an increased risk of bad falls which can lead to death. Generally it is seen that death results from hip fractures that require hospitalization because surgery would be required. Hip surgery is a major operation which carries the risk of infection, heart failure and blood clots. Such clots become dangerous if they reach the lungs. Sometimes fall may even lead to fatal brain injuries if not taken care properly.

Aside From Medication There Isnt Much You Can Do

Fact: This “it is what it is; there’s nothing I can do to help myself” myth is counterproductive. There is a lot you can do — chiefly, keeping as active as you can. A recent study found that patients with Parkinson’s who took part in weekly, hourlong exercise sessions were able to do more in their daily lives than those who did not.

Complications Related To Parkinson’s Can Affect Survival

Parkinson’s disease: Is the brain disease fatal? How to ...

Claudia Chaves, MD

Claudia Chaves, MD, is board-certified in cerebrovascular disease and neurology with a subspecialty certification in vascular neurology.

Parkinson’s is a common neurodegenerative disease, and although it is not fatal, research suggests it may influence life expectancy.

A 2012 study in Archives of Neurology examined the six-year survival of nearly 140,000 Medicare beneficiaries with Parkinson’s disease in the United States. During the six-year period, 64% of the participants with Parkinson’s disease passed away.

The risk of death of those with Parkinson’s was then compared to Medicare beneficiaries who did not have Parkinson’s or any other common diseases, including:

When controlling for variables like age, race, and gender, the six-year risk of death among people with Parkinson’s was found to be nearly four times greater than those Medicare beneficiaries without the disease or other common diseases.

At the same time, the rate of death among those with Parkinson’s disease was similar to those with hip fracture, Alzheimer’s dementia, or a recent heart attack—although it was higher than those who had been newly diagnosed with either colorectal cancer, stroke, ischemic heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Janet Reno’s Death: How Does A Person Die Of Parkinson’s

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has died at age 78 from complications of Parkinson’s disease, her family announced today. But how do people die from this disease?

In patients with Parkinson’s disease, the brain cells that produce a chemical called dopamine start to die off. It’s not clear what triggers the death of these cells, but researchers do know that dopamine is important for the control of muscle movement. Parkinson’s patients experience symptoms such as tremors, slowed movements, muscle stiffness and impaired balance.

Parkinson’s itself is usually not considered a deadly disease, and many people with the disease have a life expectancy that’s close to the average life expectancy in the general population, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

“You die with Parkinson’s disease, not from it,” according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Reno’s family did not release any further details about her death.

But in some cases, advanced symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can lead to complications that result in death, the Michael J. Fox Foundation says. For example, patients can have problems swallowing because they have a loss of control over the muscles in their throat.

Patients also may have impaired balance, which can result in falls that lead to serious or even fatal injuries, the Michael J. Fox Foundation says.

New Clues On Why Some People With Parkinsons Die Sooner

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 22,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as epilepsy, dystonia, migraine, Huntington’s disease, and dementia.For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com.

Parkinsons Disease Late Stages: What Will Happen To Me

With advanced Parkinson’s disease, stage 5 life expectancy can be months or years depending on how your condition presents. You are likely to need round-the-clock care at this stage, and you may not be able to move around independently. Patients with late-stage Parkinson’s disease are more susceptible to pneumonia, sepsis, pyelonephritis and decubitus ulcers. Late-stage Parkinson’s also leads to Parkinson’s disease dementia in 50% of cases. For all of these reasons, many late-stage Parkinson’s patients are cared for by loved ones or in a hospice.

Myth 6: Deep Brain Stimulation Is Experimental Therapy

How Do You Die Of Parkinson’s Disease?

Fact: Deep brain stimulation, or DBS, is a procedure in which doctors place electrodes in the brain at the point when medications are less effective in masking motor symptoms, such as tremor, stiffness and slowness of movement.

While it may sound frightening and futuristic, it’s been around and successfully used for decades. DBS works very similarly to a pacemaker, except the wire is in the brain, not in the heart. It’s been a standard procedure for the past two decades.

How To Take Care Of Patients With Parkinsons Disease

The condition of Parkinson’s disease progress with time and demands care from a care giver. The disease affects the motor abilities of the patient and the gradual loss of independence can be disheartening. Care givers should-

Emotional Support: Try maintaining the quality of life of the patient with proper mental support.

Follow-Up: It is the responsibility of the caregiver to take the patient for proper follow-ups to the doctor.

Diet: The care giver should keep an eye on the diet of the patient. He should have a balanced and nutritious diet. He should also be motivated to exercise regularly.

Learn More About the Disease:The care giver should make attempts to learn about the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in order to provide sufficient empowerment to the patient.

How Does The Parkinsons Disease Progress Over Time

Although slow, Parkinson’s disease is progressive in nature where the condition keeps worsening at every stage.

In the initial stage, the symptoms are seen to be mild in nature. The symptoms do not really interfere with the daily tasks and the lifestyle of the patient. The tremors and problems with balance, movement starts from one side of the body.

The next phase is characterized by moderate form of the symptoms which are distinctively noticed by people. The muscles become stiff and posture is likely to be irregular. Exercise may be recommended by the doctor to ease out the stiffness. However, balance of the patient is not much impaired.

The next stage is considered to be the turning point of the symptoms because the patient may start to lose control over his balance of the posture. He may also experience decreased reflex and is more prone to fall down while his movements become slower. In this stage, occupational therapy is required to help the patient with the stiffness and fine motor abilities.

In the second last stage the patient may not even be able to stand without help. The patient should not live alone because daily activities cannot be done independently. It is extremely important to have the assistance if a care giver at this stage.

What Is The Cause Of Death In Parkinsons Disease

Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal. Nevertheless, the symptoms associated with it can be quite dangerous because they affect the motor abilities of the patient. If motor abilities are affected, the patient may lose balance and fall. Falls can be pretty dangerous in unsafe environment which may eventually lead to death. Other complications with swallowing and dementia may also be fatal if proper care is not taken.

Caring For Your Health With Parkinson’s Disease

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In addition to caring for your Parkinson’s health, it is also important to care for your overall health. This means visiting your primary care physician periodically for preventive care like the annual flu shot and cancer screenings—for example, a mammogram for breast cancer screening and a colonoscopy for colon cancer screening.

A primary care physician can also evaluate for risk factors related to heart attacks and strokes, and provide counseling on exercise, smoking, alcohol use, depression, or other mental health concerns. Regular visits to your primary care physician or neurologist will also allow them to catch bacterial infections like urinary tract infections before they get serious.

Diagnosis And Management Of Parkinsons Disease

There are no diagnostic tests for Parkinson’s. X-rays, scans and blood tests may be used to rule out other conditions. For this reason, getting a diagnosis of Parkinson’s may take some time.

No two people with Parkinson’s disease will have exactly the same symptoms or treatment. Your doctor or neurologist can help you decide which treatments to use.

People can manage their Parkinson’s disease symptoms through:

  • seeing a Doctor who specialises in Parkinson’s
  • medication
  • multidisciplinary therapy provided for example, by nurses, allied health professionals and counsellors
  • deep brain stimulation surgery .

Medications For People With Parkinsons Disease

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease result from the progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and other organs such as the gut, which produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This causes a deficiency in the availability of dopamine, which is necessary for smooth and controlled movements. Medication therapy focuses on maximising the availability of dopamine in the brain. Medication regimes are individually tailored to your specific need. Parkinson’s medications fit into one of the following broad categories:

  • levodopa – dopamine replacement therapy
  • dopamine agonists – mimic the action of dopamine
  • COMT inhibitors – used along with levodopa. This medication blocks an enzyme known as COMT to prevent levodopa breaking down in the intestine, allowing more of it to reach the brain
  • anticholinergics – block the effect of another brain chemical to rebalance its levels with dopamine
  • amantadine – has anticholinergic properties and improves dopamine transmission
  • MAO type B inhibitors – prevent the metabolism of dopamine within the brain.

Myth 2: Parkinsons Medications Cause Symptoms

Fact: Even though the myth that Parkinson’s disease medicines are toxic and make the condition progress faster was completely debunked, it persists. Levodopa is the main drug therapy for Parkinson’s disease. It’s a potent drug that helps patients with motor symptoms. But many people got the idea that over time, it makes the disease progress faster. The myth was that levodopa is somehow toxic and is somehow making the Parkinson’s progression faster, hurting patients.

This misconception was debunked decades ago with a large clinical trial, where it was found that people exposed to levodopa versus a placebo weren’t worse. In fact, they were better at the end of the study.

It’s true that levodopa isn’t a cure — as yet, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease — but it’s not toxic.

What Is The Treatment For Parkinson’s Disease

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There is currently no treatment to cure Parkinson’s disease. Several therapies are available to delay the onset of motor symptoms and to ameliorate motor symptoms. All of these therapies are designed to increase the amount of dopamine in the brain either by replacing dopamine, mimicking dopamine, or prolonging the effect of dopamine by inhibiting its breakdown. Studies have shown that early therapy in the non-motor stage can delay the onset of motor symptoms, thereby extending quality of life.

The most effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease is levodopa , which is converted to dopamine in the brain. However, because long-term treatment with levodopa can lead to unpleasant side effects , its use is often delayed until motor impairment is more severe. Levodopa is frequently prescribed together with carbidopa , which prevents levodopa from being broken down before it reaches the brain. Co-treatment with carbidopa allows for a lower levodopa dose, thereby reducing side effects.

In earlier stages of Parkinson’s disease, substances that mimic the action of dopamine , and substances that reduce the breakdown of dopamine inhibitors) can be very efficacious in relieving motor symptoms. Unpleasant side effects of these preparations are quite common, including swelling caused by fluid accumulation in body tissues, drowsiness, constipation, dizziness, hallucinations, and nausea.

What Is The Prognosis For Someone With Early

One of the challenges of early-onset Parkinson’s disease is that you will inevitably live longer with the condition, as Parkinson’s alone is not fatal. Early-onset Parkinson’s disease does not always present the same way as late-onset Parkinson’s disease, and there is no definite prognosis. Younger Parkinson’s patients may be more at risk of developing non-motor symptoms, such as depression, sleep disorders, anxiety and urinary issues, which can cause health complications as the disease progresses.

However, early-onset patients also show slower disease progression, and it can take years to move between stages. Each case of Parkinson’s is reviewed on an individual basis, so only your doctor can tell you your prognosis.

Parkinsons Is Only A Motor Condition

Fact: While it’s true that Parkinson’s disease symptoms include shaking and tremor, rigid muscles, slowness of movement, and a frozen or “flat” expression, it’s a lot more than that.

Nonmotor symptoms deserve — and are getting — more attention from doctors and researchers. These symptoms include cognitive impairment or dementia , anxiety and depression, fatigue, sleep problems and more.

For some patients, nonmotor symptoms are more disabling than motor symptoms, which are the focus of treatment. Be sure to talk to your doctor about other issues so you can get all of your symptoms addressed.

Parkinsons Disease Is A Progressive Disorder

Parkinson’s Disease is a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects movement and, in some cases, cognition. Individuals with PD may have a slightly shorter life span compared to healthy individuals of the same age group. According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, patients usually begin developing Parkinson’s symptoms around age 60. Many people with PD live between 10 and 20 years after being diagnosed. However, a patient’s age and general health status factor into the accuracy of this estimate.

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, many patients are only mildly affected and need no treatment for several years after their initial diagnosis. However, PD is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. This progression occurs more quickly in some people than in others.

Pharmaceutical and surgical interventions can help manage some of the symptoms, like bradykinesia , rigidity or tremor , but not much can be done to slow the overall progression of the disease. Over time, shaking, which affects most PD patients, may begin to interfere with daily activities and one’s quality of life.

The Last Year Of Life In Parkinson’s Disease

What Is Parkinson

The study also examined nearly 45,000 hospitalizations in people with terminal Parkinson’s, meaning their end-of-life period.

Of those with terminal PD, the most common reasons for being in the hospital were:

  • Infection
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease that was not from an infection

Less common causes for hospitalization were problems related to the stomach or intestines, muscles, nervous system, or endocrine system .

It is not surprising that infection was the most common hospitalization before death, as people with Parkinson’s are vulnerable to developing a number of infections as a result of their disease. For example, bladder dysfunction in Parkinson’s increases a person’s risk of developing urinary tract infections, which can become life-threatening if not detected and treated promptly.

In addition, research suggests that aspiration pneumonia is 3.8 times more common in people with Parkinson’s as compared to the general population. It has also been consistently reported to be the main cause of death in people with Parkinson’s.

Aspiration pneumonia results from underlying swallowing difficulties, which leads to stomach contents being inhaled into the lungs. Immobilization and rigidity, which can impair phlegm removal, also contribute to the development of pneumonia in people with Parkinson’s.

Theory Of Pd Progression: Braaks Hypothesis

The current theory is that the earliest signs of Parkinson’s are found in the enteric nervous system, the medulla and the olfactory bulb, which controls sense of smell. Under this theory, Parkinson’s only progresses to the substantia nigra and cortex over time.

This theory is increasingly borne out by evidence that non-motor symptoms, such as a loss of sense of smell , sleep disorders and constipation may precede the motor features of the disease by several years. For this reason, researchers are increasingly focused on these non-motor symptoms to detect PD as early as possible and to look for ways to stop its progression.

Page reviewed by Dr. Ryan Barmore, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.

*Please note that not all content is available in both languages. If you are interested in receiving Spanish communications, we recommend selecting “both” to stay best informed on the Foundation’s work and the latest in PD news.

How Often Does Parkinsons Run In The Family

Most Parkinson’s cases have no connection to a genetic cause, but scientists have found that some gene mutations can heighten an individual’s risk. Researchers believe that a better understanding of these genes may improve ways of identifying and treating the illness.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that an estimated 15 to 25 percent of people with Parkinson’s have a family history of the disorder. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research estimates that about 10 percent of cases are linked with a genetic cause.

“Parkinson’s doesn’t stand out as a hereditary disease over and above any other chronic diseases that people deal with,” says Rebecca Gilbert, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer for the American Parkinson Disease Association in New York City. “But if you have a parent with Parkinson’s disease, you have about a fourfold greater risk over the general population.”

Still, that risk is relatively small. About 1 percent of the population over 60 has Parkinson’s, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and that number rises to about 4 percent for those who have a mother or father with the illness, according to Dr. Gilbert. The overall message is: Just because you have a gene linked to Parkinson’s does not mean you will get the disease.

Surgery For People With Parkinsons Disease

Deep brain stimulation surgery is an option to treat Parkinson’s disease symptoms, but it is not suitable for everyone. There are strict criteria and guidelines on who can be a candidate for surgery, and this is something that only your doctor and you can decide. Surgery may be considered early or late in the progression of Parkinson’s. When performing deep-brain stimulation surgery, the surgeon places an electrode in the part of the brain most effected by Parkinson’s disease. Electrical impulses are introduced to the brain, which has the effect of ‘normalising’ the brain’s electrical activity reducing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The electrical impulse is introduced using a pacemaker-like device called a stimulator. Thalamotomy and pallidotomy are operations where the surgeon makes an incision on part of the brain. These surgeries aim to alleviate some forms of tremor or unusual movement, but they are rarely performed now.

Support For People With Parkinsons Disease

Parkinson Exercises

Early access to a multidisciplinary support team is important. These teams may include doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, dietitians, social workers and specialist nurses. Members of the team assess the person with Parkinson’s disease and identify potential difficulties and possible solutions.There are a limited number of multidisciplinary teams in Victoria that specialise in Parkinson’s disease management. But generalist teams are becoming more aware of how to help people with Parkinson’s disease.

Hospice Eligibility For Parkinsons Disease

Due to the progressive nature of Parkinson’s disease, it can be challenging for families to know when their loved one is eligible for the support of hospice care. If a loved one has been diagnosed with six months or less to live or if they have experienced a decline in their ability to move, speak, or participate in the activities of daily living without caregiver assistance, it is time to speak with a hospice professional about next steps.

Identifying Risk Factors For Parkinson’s

The risk for early death increased by about 40% for every 10-year increase in age at diagnosis.

Parkinson’s researcher Tobias Kurth, MD, agrees that identifying risk factors for early death could help clinicians better manage the disease.

Kurth is an adjunct associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health.

“This is important research that adds to our understanding of the impact of specific features of Parkinson’s disease on outcomes,� he tells WebMD.

His own study of Parkinson’s-associated death matched Parkinson’s patients with people without the disease who had similar non-Parkinson’s-related illnesses.

Like the newly reported study, patients who were older when their Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed had a greater risk for early death.

Parkinsons Disease: Is Death Inevitable

Death is inevitable for us all, but Parkinson’s disease in itself is not a death sentence. Your prognosis will depend on your age, general health, and how your Parkinson’s has progressed. However, there is no reason to assume that you won’t continue to live a full and productive life with the condition.

Scientists are performing new medical trials and research all the time to look for a cure for Parkinson’s disease, while our understanding of medications and treatments is better than it has ever been. Therefore, there are plenty of ways you can control the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and make changes to your lifestyle as necessary. Many Parkinson’s patients take up yoga, gardening, swimming and walking to improve their strength, flexibility and mental health. Others use physical therapy, massage and meditation to help keep symptoms at bay. These are great ways to extend your life expectancy – with or without Parkinson’s disease.

Who Gets Early Onset Parkinsons Disease

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About 10%-20% of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are under age 50, and about half of those are diagnosed before age 40. Approximately 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed each year in the United States, meaning somewhere around 6,000 – 12,000 are young onset patients.

Is it genetic or hereditary?

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is not yet known. However, Parkinson’s disease has appeared across several generations of some families, which could indicate that certain forms of the disease are hereditary or genetic. Many researchers think that Parkinson’s disease may be caused by genetic factors combined with other external factors. The field of genetics is playing an ever greater role in Parkinson’s disease research, and scientists are continually working towards determining the cause or causes of PD.

Myth 7: Parkinsons Research Is Stalled

Fact: It may feel as though there’s nothing dramatic going on in the Parkinson’s disease field, but there are several recent and very exciting breakthroughs regarding our understanding of the underlying pathology and disease mechanism. This will translate into actual clinical results in the next few years.

Parkinson’s Disease Diet And Nutrition

Maintaining Your Weight With Parkinson’s Disease

Malnutrition and weight maintenance is often an issue for people with Parkinson’s disease. Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy weight.

  • Weigh yourself once or twice a week, unless your doctor recommends weighing yourself often. If you are taking diuretics or steroids, such as prednisone, you should weigh yourself daily.
  • If you have an unexplained weight gain or loss , contact your doctor. He or she may want to modify your food or fluid intake to help manage your condition.
  • Avoid low-fat or low-calorie products. . Use whole milk, whole milk cheese, and yogurt.

Read more about Parkinson’s disease diet and nutrition »

How Do You Die Of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease, a chronic, progressive movement disorder characterized by tremors and stiffness, is not considered a fatal disease in and of itself, though it may reduce life expectancy by a modest amount. It is often said that people die “with” Parkinson’s rather than “of” the disease.

“People who are healthy when diagnosed will generally live about as long as other people in their age cohort,” said James Beck, the vice president for scientific affairs at the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, which is involved in research, education and advocacy. “It is not a death sentence.”

Since Parkinson’s generally affects people later in life — patients are typically given a diagnosis in their 60s — patients often die of unrelated age-related diseases like cancer, heart disease or stroke. But the most common cause of death in those with Parkinson’s is pneumonia, because the disease impairs patients’ ability to swallow, putting them at risk for inhaling or aspirating food or liquids into their lungs, leading to aspiration pneumonia.

Do you have a health question? Submit your question to Ask Well.

What Does Parkinson’s Do To The Brain

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Deep down in your brain, there’s an area called the substantia nigra, which is in the basal ganglia. Some of its cells make dopamine, a chemical that carries messages around your brain. When you need to scratch an itch or kick a ball, dopamine quickly carries a message to the nerve cell that controls that movement.

When that system is working well, your body moves smoothly and evenly. But when you have Parkinson’s, the cells of your substantia nigra start to die. There’s no replacing them, so your dopamine levels drop and you can’t fire off as many messages to control smooth body movements.

Early on, you won’t notice anything different. But as more and more cells die, you reach a tipping point where you start to have symptoms.

That may not be until 80% of the cells are gone, which is why you can have Parkinson’s for quite a while before you realize it.

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