Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that damages the central nervous system. The condition affects mainly adults over the age of 65. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year.
Parkinson’s can cause a condition called Parkinson’s disease dementia. This condition is marked by a decline in thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving.
An estimated 50 to 80 percent of people with Parkinson’s will eventually experience Parkinson’s disease dementia.
What Are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?
The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia include:
- changes in appetite
- changes in energy levels
- paranoid ideas
- difficulty with memory recall and forgetfulness
- inability to concentrate
- inability to apply reasoning and judgment
- increased anxiety
- mood swings
- loss of interest
- slurred speech
- sleep disturbances
How Is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia Diagnosed?
No single test can diagnose Parkinson’s disease dementia. Instead, doctors rely on a series or combination of tests and indictors.
Your neurologist will likely diagnose you with Parkinson’s and then track your progression. They may monitor you for signs of dementia. As you get older, your risk for Parkinson’s dementia increases. So your doctor is more likely to conduct regular testing to monitor your cognitive functions, memory recall, and mental health.
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?
A chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine helps control and coordinate muscle movement. Over time, Parkinson’s disease destroys the nerve cells that make dopamine. Without this chemical messenger, the nerve cells cannot properly relay instructions to the body. This causes a loss of muscle function and coordination. Researchers don’t know why these brain cells disappear.
Parkinson’s disease also causes dramatic changes in a part of your brain that controls movement. Those with Parkinson’s disease often experience motor symptoms as a preliminary sign of the condition. Tremors are one of the most common first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
As the disease progresses and spreads in your brain, it can affect the parts of your brain responsible for mental functions, memory, and judgment. Over time, your brain may not be able to use these areas as efficiently as it once did. As a result, you may begin experiencing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?
You have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease dementia if:
- You are male.
- You are older.
- You have existing mild cognitive impairment.
- You have more severe symptoms of motor impairment, such as rigidity and gait disturbance.
- You have been diagnosed with psychiatric symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease, such as depression.
How Is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia Treated?
No single drug or treatment can cure Parkinson’s disease dementia. Currently, doctors focus on a treatment plan that helps relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Some of the medications, however, can make dementia and related mental symptoms worse.
What Steps Should I Take If Myself or a Loved One Is Experiencing Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?
If you’re aware of increasing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia, start a diary and record what you’re experiencing. Note when symptoms occur, how long they last, and if medicine helped.
If you’re caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s disease, keep a journal for them. Record the symptoms they experience, how often they occur, and any other relevant information. Present this journal to your neurologist at your next appointment to see if the symptoms are related to Parkinson’s disease dementia or possibly another condition.