Health Conditions Linked to Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurologic disorder that affects how your brain controls your body’s movements. PD is also linked to other health conditions.

Those living with PD may be more likely to develop other conditions, such as heart disease and skin cancer. This connection can go the other way as well. For example, people living with conditions like diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may be more likely to develop PD later in life.1-4

Heart disease

PD appears to increase the risk of heart disease. This includes problems with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat (arrhythmia). These changes in heart rhythm can cause lightheadedness, fainting, or even stroke.1

PD also increases the likelihood of coronary artery disease. This is a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels in the heart that can cause chest pain or heart attack.1

GI issues

Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are very common in PD. They include nausea, bloating, and constipation, among others. Many people living with PD have already been diagnosed with IBD, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.4

It is believed that the gut inflammation that causes IBD may also be related to the inflammation in the brain from PD. It is not clear if they are related or if IBD may be a cause of PD. More research is needed to better understand the possible link.4

Incontinence

Those living with PD may experience autonomic dysfunction. The autonomic nervous system controls unconscious body functions like heartbeat, digestion, and breathing. Continence, or being able to hold urine or stool, is also controlled by this system. PD can cause symptoms like incontinence of urine, urinary urgency, or urinary frequency.2

Skin cancer

People living with PD are at an overall lower risk of developing nearly all types of cancers. However, they are at increased risk of melanoma, which is the most serious type of skin cancer.3

This relationship also goes the other way. Those who have been diagnosed with melanoma or who have a family history of melanoma are at an increased risk of developing PD.3

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a very common metabolic disease where the body struggles to properly break down and use sugar. This leads to high levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes is linked to many diseases, including neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.3

Recent studies have shown that people living with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of developing PD. Those living with diabetes and PD also may have more severe PD symptoms.3

Musculoskeletal conditions

Many PD symptoms like tremors or bradykinesia (slowness of movement or gradual loss of spontaneous movement) affect muscle movements. However, people living with PD are also more likely to develop musculoskeletal conditions alongside PD or because of it.5

These may be misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. These conditions include frozen shoulder, osteoporosis, arthritis, and fractures.5

Vitamin D deficiency

People living with PD are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D. Studies also found that those living with PD and vitamin D deficiency are more likely to experience severe PD symptoms. This is a concern because low vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis puts those living with PD at higher risk of bone fractures if they fall.6

Peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain)

Because PD affects nerves, those living with PD may experience nerve pain. This can feel like sharp, burning, or tingling sensations. Nerve pain can also be all over the body, or it can be in one area such as the face, genitals, or joints. It may be more frequent when motor symptoms of PD worsen.2

Emotional control issues

Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a neurologic condition that can develop because of PD. It is characterized by sudden and uncontrollable emotions. These can be exaggerated emotions or inappropriate emotions. This can look like sudden laughing, crying, or intense anger.7

These episodes last seconds to minutes and often do not match how the person is feeling inside. Experts believe PBA may be due to PD nerve damage in areas of the brain that control emotion.7

If you are struggling with any of these conditions or have more questions, speak to your doctor.

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Written by: Leah Steinberg | Last reviewed: March 2022