What are the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Nader Pouratian, MD
Parkinson’s disease, even though we call it a movement disorder, is much more than just a movement disorder. The movements are only the tip of the iceberg. If we dive deeper down into each patient, there are many other factors that we can find.

About 80% of patients with Parkinson’s disease have depression, and it’s not that they’re depressed because they have Parkinson’s disease. They’re not depressed because of their symptoms. It’s actually a biological effect of the disease. It’s that depletion of those neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain that contributes to the depression. Anxiety and loss of smell are very common, and often, they precede any of the motor symptoms.

We see sleep disorders, people acting out in their sleep often. We’ll see husbands and wives who cannot sleep in the same bed because their spouse is acting out, talking in their sleep or even hitting them in their sleep -- not out of true violence but because they have such vivid dreams and sleep disorders.

Incontinence can develop later on in the disease, as can problems with low blood pressure and memory problems. We can see dementia late in Parkinson’s disease, and it can be very common late in Parkinson’s disease after 20 years of disease. We can also see freezing of gait, which is a motor problem where patients can’t cross a threshold or get stuck with their walking. The reason we list this separately is because those are symptoms that are not generally responsive to medications.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.