Parkinson’s is a progressive brain disorder that affects mobility and mental ability. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, you may be wondering about life expectancy. While the disease itself isn’t fatal, related complications can reduce life expectancy.
In people with Parkinson’s disease, the cells that produce dopamine start to die. Dopamine is a chemical that helps you move normally.
There’s no known direct cause of Parkinson’s. One theory is that it may be hereditary. Other theories suggest exposure to pesticides and living in rural communities may cause it.
Men are 50 percent more likely than women to develop the disease. Researchers have not found the exact reasons for this.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s are gradual and sometimes unnoticeable in the early stages of the disease. They may include:
- loss of balance
- slowing of movements
- spontaneous, uncontrollable movements
Parkinson’s disease is classified in stages, ranging from 1 to 5. Stage 5 is the most advanced and debilitating stage. Advanced stages may increase the risk for health complications that reduce lifespan.
Why did it take so long for the diagnosis?Alice R.
There is no definitive medical test that can be performed on a patient to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. It’s essentially a clinical diagnosis, meaning a doctor will make the diagnosis based on several clinical features seen. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremor, slowness of movement, stiffness, and balance problems. However, the presentation and progression of these symptoms vary widely from patient to patient. Also, the initial presentation is often subtle and can be ascribed to other conditions. Some people think their symptoms are due to normal aging, which may delay presentation to the doctor. Another common finding in patients with Parkinson’s disease is “masked facies” or an expressionless face, which often gets mistaken for depression. If there’s concern that someone is developing Parkinson’s disease, they should be seen by a neurologist for a clinical exam to help establish the diagnosis.The Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Falls are a common secondary symptom of Parkinson’s disease. The risk of falling is greater in Stages 4 and 5.
In these stages, you may not be able to stand or walk on your own. You’re also prone to broken bones and concussions, and severe falls can be dangerous. A serious fall can reduce your life expectancy due to complications from the fall.
According to The National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions, certain related complications can directly affect longevity. These include:
- aspiration: accidentally breathing in food or foreign objects
- deep vein thrombosis: deep clots that can block blood vessels
- pulmonary embolism: arterial blockage in the lungs
Age is another factor in the diagnosis and outlook for Parkinson’s disease. Most people will be diagnosed after the age of 60. Age can also make you more prone to falls and certain diseases even without Parkinson’s disease. Such risks can increase for older adults with Parkinson’s.
Women have a reduced risk for getting Parkinson’s. Women with Parkinson’s tend to live longer with the disorder than men. However, age can play a factor regardless of gender. Female patients who are over 60 may not fare as well as younger women diagnosed with the disease.
Life expectancy has increased dramatically due to advances in treatment. Medications and occupational therapy are especially helpful in the earliest stages of the disease. These treatments can improve a patient’s quality of life.
Parkinson’s is not a fatal disease, meaning one does not die from it. However, it causes symptoms that may increase falls, blood clots, or pneumonia that can be life-threatening. These usually do not occur until the disease has progressed to a late stage.
Early detection is the key to reducing complications that can shorten your life. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have Parkinson’s disease, see your doctor right away.