Most people think of Parkinson’s disease (PD) as a neurodegenerative motor disorder. When you picture someone with Parkinson’s you imagine someone with a tremor, slowness of movement and difficulty controlling movement. But in recent years more has been learned about the non-motor symptoms of PD. There are a broad range of symptoms that range from anxiety to weight management and beyond.
Some symptoms are talked about less frequently both in medical literature and among people living with Parkinson’s. It is important to understand that Parkinson’s affects each person in a unique manner and thus recognizing that these symptoms can be a part of your PD can make them less alarming.
Also, some non-motor symptoms can appear before the onset of typical motor symptoms such as tremor. Knowing this can help you to discuss potentially meaningful experiences with your medical team early on.
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal symptom of Parkinson’s. Chemical changes in the brain that are associated with PD also affect the muscles used to carry food through the digestive system. This can affect your bowel movements. Other contributing factors can include, but are not limited to, side effects of medication, insufficient water intake, and not getting enough exercise.
Many of these causes can be easily managed by maintaining softer stools. You can try drinking 6-8 glasses of water each day. Some people find it helpful to warm their liquids. Eat a balanced diet with sufficient fiber, fruits and vegetables, then get up and moving! These steps will help move food through your digestive tract.1
Sleep is an important tool in maintaining good health for everyone. More than 75% of people with Parkinson’s report sleep disturbances, often finding it difficult to fall and stay asleep through the night. Individual difficulties may include: restless leg syndrome, calling out during sleep, vivid dreaming, excessive daytime sleepiness and repeated urges to urinate. Like with other symptoms of PD, the medications you take can also impact sleep behavior. Make sure to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing sleep disturbances of any kind, so they can be evaluated to help you manage an approach to better, more restful sleep.
To develop better sleep patterns you can try to adhere to a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Limit what you drink in the hours before you go to sleep, and use the bathroom right before getting into bed. Try not to read or watch TV or use any kind of screen while in bed as they can interfere with the ability of your brain to turn off. Find time to exercise during the day so you are more physically tired at night.2
Changes in brain chemistry can affect your mental health as well. The same neural pathways used by dopamine affect the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. More than 60% of people with Parkinson’s experience difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions while others will go on to develop anxiety and depression.
Sometimes people who experience mood changes are reluctant to seek help. There are treatment options to address mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Make sure to discuss how you are feeling with your physician.3,4
Pseudobulbar affect (PBA)
People with PBA experience sudden, uncontrollable outbursts of laughing or crying, often at inappropriate times when the outbursts don’t match their feelings. PBA is thought to develop when the underlying neurological disease affects areas of the brain related to emotion. PBA is generally diagnosed by reporting symptoms to your physician. There are medications available to reduce episodes of PBA.5
People with Parkinson’s may experience a range of vision issues because the visual cortex can be affected by the reduction of dopamine in the brain. Dry eyes, blurry vision, and difficulty controlling motion of eyes and eyelids are all common problems. Parkinson’s can impair the motor control of eye movements just like with your extremities. Aging and unrelated eye problems can also cause eye and eyelid issues. Visual changes can be caused by side effects of PD medications, and can also increase the likelihood of hallucinations.6,7
There are numerous resources available in our community through ParkinsonDisease.net. To learn more and read about personal experiences you can visit the links below:
Constipation and Nausea. Available at: http://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Symptoms/Non-Movement-Symptoms/Gastrointestinal-Issues?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx4ykx7fA3gIVwwOGCh2w9gxIEAAYAyAAEgLeQ_D_BwE. Accessed 11.4.18
Sleep Disorder. Available at: https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Symptoms/Non-Movement-Symptoms/Sleep-Disorders. Accessed 11.5.18.
Downward, E. Symptoms: Mood Changes. Available at: https://parkinsonsdisease.net/symptoms/mood-changes-depression-anxiety/. Accessed 11.6.18.
Minton, L. Pontone,G. Perepezko,K. Mood: A mind guide to Parkinson’s disease. Available at: https://www.parkinson.org/pd-library/books/Mood-A-Mind-Guide-to-Parkinsons-Disease. Accessed 11.6.18.
Downward, E. PseudoBulbar Affect (PBA) and Parkinson’s. Available at: https://parkinsonsdisease.net/living-with-pd/pseudobulbar-affect-pba/. Accessed 11.7.18.
How Does Parkinson’s affect Vision? Available at: https://parkinsonsdisease.net/clinical/vision-issues-symptom/. Accessed 11.7.18
Vision Changes. Available at: http://parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Symptoms/Non-Movement-Symptoms/Vision-Changes?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIjIbztc_F3gIViIKzCh0IQwGzEAAYAiAAEgIUQvD_BwE. Accessed 11.7.18.