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Monday, Sep 01, 2014
Caregiving

Keep watch for Parkinson’s disease dementia

Tribune staff
Published:

For the most part, when the general public hears the term "Parkinson's disease," also known as "PD," they think of it simply as a degenerative mobility disorder, the one that has affected Michael J. Fox.

While this is accurate, it is also estimated that 30 percent of Parkinson's patients develop some form of dementia. Since the dementia most often does not begin to raise its head until about 10 years after the motor difficulties appear, this symptom does not usually come to mind. It is known as "Parkinson's disease dementia," or "PDD."

It is estimated that in the U.S. alone, more than 1 million people have Parkinson's disease. There are approximately 50,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. It mostly attacks people over the age of 50; however, there is also what is called "juvenile Parkinson's disease." These cases are showing up in people as young as 30.

Most patients with PD lose an assortment of mental abilities over the years, but those who have dementia as well seem to have a decline of more intensity.

It is important to note that the 10-year span I mentioned above is the norm. If symptoms of dementia start showing up earlier than that, something else is most likely the cause.

Many patients are diagnosed with Parkinson's along with Lewy body dementia. Just as with any other dementia, it is important to be correctly diagnosed as early as possible.

If you're noticing signs of restlessness, anxiety, delusions or language difficulties, these are not normal symptoms that PDD may cause.

Always remember that depression itself can cause symptoms of dementia. It is essential that these and all other characteristics be discussed with the attending physician.

Those who are diagnosed with PDD usually have Lewy bodies present. Lewy bodies are protein deposits attached to nerve cells, which eventually end up destroying these same cells. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in regulating movement. What happens is that Lewy bodies damage not only the dopamine but other neurotransmitters as well.

For those of you who have loved ones with PDD, make sure to provide a solid, routine existence for them to follow. A predictable, run-of-the-mill lifestyle will help immensely in their care.


Gary Joseph LeBlanc cared for his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at us41books@bellsouth.net. His books can be found at commonsensecaregiving.com.

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