Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects mobility and mental ability. If you or a loved one has received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, you may be wondering about the life expectancy.

A 2017 study suggests that, on average, people with Parkinson’s can expect to live almost as long as those who don’t have the disease.

While the disease itself isn’t fatal, related complications can reduce life expectancy by 1–2 years.

A small 2018 study suggests that the survival rate of people with Parkinson’s is highly dependent on the type of parkinsonian disorder they have.

Patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (meaning the disease has no cause) and typical cognitive function appear to have a mostly normal life expectancy.

People with atypical parkinsonism — including Lewy body dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, and multiple system atrophy — have increased mortality compared with the larger population.

There’s also a correlation between mortality rate and the existence of parkinsonian symptoms (except for tremors) and olfactory dysfunction (problems related to your sense of smell).

Sex could also play a role in mortality. Some research suggests a higher mortality rate among females.

Parkinson’s disease is classified into stages 1–5. Stage 5 is the most advanced. Advanced stages may increase the risk of health complications that can reduce life span.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s are gradual and are sometimes not noticeable in the early stages of the disease. They may include:

  • tremors
  • loss of balance
  • slowing of movements
  • spontaneous, uncontrollable movements

Symptoms in later stages of Parkinson’s may include:

  • more frequent falls
  • trouble dressing and eating
  • severe stiffness in your legs, which makes it impossible to stand or walk
  • hallucinations or delusions
  • cognitive changes (problems with planning, language, attention, or memory)
  • dementia
  • lightheadedness
  • mood disorders
  • loss of sense of smell or taste
  • vision problems
  • sleep disorders
  • sexual problems

As Parkinson’s progresses to stages 3, 4, and 5, your risk of falling increases and your motor balance worsens.

A small 2016 study suggests that people with Parkinson’s are about three times more likely to fall than the larger population. Serious falls can result in concussions and broken bones. In rare cases, serious falls can be fatal.

Pneumonia, particularly aspiration pneumonia, is the leading cause of death for people with Parkinson’s, accounting for 70% of Parkinson’s deaths.

Aspiration pneumonia happens when you inhale food, stomach acid, or saliva into your lungs. As Parkinson’s progresses, swallowing can become more difficult, causing food and liquid to enter your lungs.

Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured, but medications, supportive treatments, lifestyle changes, and even surgery can help manage your symptoms, especially if you start treatment early.

Stage 1

Early treatment of Parkinson’s typically includes physical therapy and regular exercise to help improve your balance, strength, and flexibility. A physical therapist will work with you to relieve muscle stiffness and joint pain through movement and exercise, with the goal of improving your walking and flexibility.

Making dietary changes can also help improve early Parkinson’s symptoms.

For example, increasing the amount of fiber in your diet and drinking lots of water can help reduce constipation.

Increasing the amount of salt in your diet and eating lots of small, frequent meals can help you avoid the dizziness that can come with low blood pressure. But you should increase your salt intake only if your blood pressure is low. And be sure to consult a doctor first.

In early Parkinson’s, a doctor might prescribe dopamine precursors such as carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet, Rytary, Duopa). These medications can provide short-term relief from symptoms and may delay the appearance and severity of motor-skill complications as the disease progresses.

Stage 2

If you’re in this stage of Parkinson’s, you may have trouble swallowing (dysphagia) and problems with your speech. A speech-language pathologist can teach you exercises to help with speaking and swallowing and provide assistive technology to help you communicate.

You may also benefit from working with an occupational therapist, who can help you find practical solutions to problems you encounter in your everyday life, such as difficulty getting dressed or showering.

A doctor may prescribe any of the following medications to help treat symptoms such as tremors and movement problems.

Carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet, Rytary, Duopa)

This dopamine precursor is the most potent and effective medication for Parkinson’s. Nerve cells in your brain absorb levodopa and turn it into the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps replace the dopamine lost to Parkinson’s.

This medication is usually taken as a liquid or tablet and used alongside other medications, such as benserazide and carbidopa, that reduce the side effects of levodopa and prevent it from being broken down in your bloodstream before it gets to your brain.

Dopamine agonists

These drugs mimic dopamine’s effects in your brain, helping relieve Parkinson’s symptoms. They have similar effects to levodopa, but due to the side effects of these medications, doctors often avoid prescribing them to older people.

However, they are also less likely than carbidopa-levodopa to cause involuntary movements (dyskinesia) or motor fluctuations. Options include pramipexole (Mirapex), ropinirole (Requip), and rotigotine (Neupro).

MAO-B Inhibitors

These drugs stop the breakdown of dopamine in your brain. Examples include rasagiline (Azilect), safinamide (Xadago), and selegiline (Eldepryl).

Amantadine (Gocovri)

Amantadine is known as an anti-Parkinson’s and antiviral agent. It may also be used early in Parkinson’s to treat tremors.

Doctors prescribe it to help treat dyskinesias and “off episodes” in people who already taking levodopa-based medication. “Off episodes” occur when the medication you regularly take does not work as well as it usually does.

Other drugs

Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors are often prescribed to people in later stages of Parkinson’s disease. They help prevent levodopa from being broken down in your body. Anticholinergics can prevent tremors and treat movement disorders caused by Parkinson’s.

Other treatments

You may undergo surgical procedures such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), which involves implanting a pulse generator (similar to a pacemaker) in your chest wall. The ideal candidate for DBS still responds positively to levodopa and has not been fully disabled by motor complications.

The pulse generator is then connected to fine wires that are placed under your skin and inserted into specific areas of your brain, where electrical currents from the generator stimulate areas of your brain affected by Parkinson’s. While surgery can’t cure Parkinson’s, it can ease symptoms for some people.

These days, people in the earlier stages of Parkinson’s are being considered for DBS. People in later stages of the disease often are not candidates for DBS due to co-occuring conditions.

You may want to use complementary therapies in all stages of Parkinson’s to improve your well-being and help manage stress. Options include:

  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • meditation
  • massage
  • music therapy
  • art therapy

Stage 3

Treatments and therapies used in early stages of Parkinson’s may still be used in stage 3. These include:

  • exercise
  • physical therapy
  • a balanced diet
  • speech-language therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • medications
  • alternative therapies

Stages 4 and 5

Treatments often become less effective in the most advanced stages of Parkinson’s. As the disease progresses, your doctor might change the way your medication is delivered to make it more potent.

For example, if you’re taking dopamine agonist tablets, you may switch to apomorphine, a form of dopamine agonist that will be injected under your skin or given as a continuous infusion using a small pump that you carry.

If you’re taking medications that contain levodopa, your doctor may switch you to duodopa, a type of levodopa in the form of a gel that is continuously pumped into your gut through a tube inserted into your abdomen.

For certain people with stage 4 or 5 Parkinson’s, DBS may be an option.

Parkinson’s and falls

Falls are a common secondary symptom of Parkinson’s disease. The risk of falling starts increasing in stage 3 and is greater in stages 4 and 5.

In these stages, you may not be able to stand or walk on your own.

You’ll also be prone to broken bones and concussions, and severe falls can be dangerous. Complications from a serious fall can reduce your life expectancy.


Age is another factor in the diagnosis and outlook for Parkinson’s disease. Most people will receive a diagnosis after 70 years of age.

As you get older, you may be more prone to falls and more likely to develop certain diseases, even if you don’t have Parkinson’s disease. These risks can increase if you have Parkinson’s.


Females have a lower risk of getting Parkinson’s. Males are 50% more likely than females to develop the disease. Researchers have not found the exact reasons for this.

But females with Parkinson’s may have a faster progression and reduced life span. Symptoms in females may be different from symptoms in males.

It’s important to note that age can be a factor regardless of sex. Females over 60 years old may not fare as well as younger people of the same sex who have the disease.

Access to treatment

Life expectancy has increased significantly due to advances in treatment.

Medications and physical and occupational therapy are especially helpful in the earliest stages of the disease. These treatments can improve your quality of life.

Parkinson’s is not a fatal disease, which means people do not die from it. Early detection is the key to helping reduce complications that can shorten life expectancy.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have Parkinson’s disease, consult a doctor right away.


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.
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