What Is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurological disorders that upsets the central nervous system, typically affecting adults over 65. The Parkinson’s Foundation estimated that nearly 930,000 Americans would be living with this disease by 2020. 

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (PDD) is a condition caused by Parkinson’s disease. Research estimates that about 50-80% of individuals who have Parkinson’s disease develop Parkinson’s disease dementia at any stage in their life. This condition causes a deterioration in reasoning, cognitive ability, thinking, and problem-solving.

Related: How To Care For Someone With Frontotemporal Dementia?

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are two of the most common progressive neurological diseases misconstrued in several instances. Therefore, this article aims at clearing out the ambiguities revolving around both Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s disease dementia by delving into Parkinson’s dementia stages, Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia. It also addresses common questions like “Does Parkinson’s affect memory?”

Let’s get started!

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is primarily a progressive movement disorder that causes muscles to become rigid and tighten, considerably restricting mobility. It is a chronic disease that worsens with time and lacks proper treatment. A person with Parkinson’s disease faces difficulties walking and undertaking normal daily life activities and may also experience tremors, develop cognitive disabilities, or suffer from memory loss and dementia.

People aged 50 or older are most likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, with the average age of occurrence ranging around 60. If Parkinson’s disease affects people younger than 50, it is termed early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Individuals with a family history of this disorder are most likely to develop an early-onset version of Parkinson’s disease. In ordinary circumstances, the older a person is, the higher their chances of developing Parkinson’s disease. It is commonly found more prevalent in men than women.

Related: Can Memory Loss From Diabetes Be Reversed?

Prevalence of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is one of the prevalent neurological disorders that strike in old age. It is estimated to affect approximately 2% of individuals over 65. Recent studies on the whole course of people with Parkinson’s disease show that nearly 50-80% of individuals may develop dementia. The National Parkinson’s Foundation predicts about one million Americans will have Parkinson’s disease by 2020, which is quite an alarming figure.

Causes and Risk Factors of Parkinson’s Disease

It is estimated that about 50 to 80 percent of individuals with Parkinson’s disease develop dementia over their disease’s progression. Other studies have also depicted that the average time from the onset of this disease to the development of dementia is approximately ten years.

Certain medical factors may enhance the chances of future dementia at the time of Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. These factors include advanced age, increased complications in motor symptoms, and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Some other factors may include the following:

  • Increased daytime sleepiness. 
  • Hallucinations in a person who does not exhibit any other symptoms of dementia yet. 
  • The appearance of a Parkinson’s symptom pattern is referred to as postural instability and gait disturbance (PIGD). This pattern entails “freezing” while walking or mid-step, shuffling, experiencing difficulties in movement, falling, or facing problems with balancing.

What are the Causes of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain responsible for coordinating and controlling muscle movement. Parkinson’s disease destroys and kills the nerve cells that develop dopamine, resulting in a decline in its production. The nerve cells cannot relay the messages and instructions to the body in the absence of this chemical messenger, resulting in a loss of muscle coordination and function in the body. In addition to this, this disease also causes considerable changes in the motion control portion of the brain, which further retards coordination. Several kinds of research are underway to find the reasons behind the death of these brain cells.

Related: What Are The 7 Stages Of Lewy Body Dementia?

The progression of the disease spreads this cell death throughout the brain, affecting the brain portions responsible for memory, judgment, mental functions, and other related activities. A decrease in activity retards the brain’s ability to work efficiently, which may cause an individual to exhibit symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia.

What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease usually begins on a smaller scale and worsens with time. The initial signs are typically so subtle that even a medical professional may not be able to detect them, let alone a non-specialist. People do not usually seek medical aid at this stage. These symptoms may include the following:

  • Stiffness and slowed walking ability.
  • Tremors affecting the arms, legs, jaws, and hands.
  • Inability to maintain balance.
  • Complications with coordination.
  • Stiff feelings of discomfort in the legs, torso, and arms area.
  • Subtle changes in handwriting.

However, the symptoms tend to worsen with time because of the progressive nature of Parkinson’s disease, which may include the following:

  • Gastrointestinal complications like constipation.
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Complications with urinations.
  • Trouble in swallowing and chewing food.
  • Dementia
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Hallucinations

What are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Dementia?

Some of the common Parkinson’s disease dementia symptoms include the following:

  • Appetite changes
  • Changes in energy levels.
  • Delusions
  • Paranoid ideas and notions.
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to recall important events.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Complications in judgment and reasoning abilities.
  • Loss of focus and concentration.
  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Unexplained mood swings.
  • Disturbances in sleep.
  • Slurred speech
  • Abrupt loss in interest.

Behavioral Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Parkinson’s disease progresses to typically give rise to behavioral symptoms of Parkinson’s disease dementia. Taking special care of the confusion, disorientation, and agitation that may surround patients at this stage is crucial for treatment. It is common for some people to suffer from delusions or hallucinations resulting from disease progression, which can be pretty debilitating and terrifying. Research shows that about 50% of individuals with this disease suffer from these behavioral symptoms.

How is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia Diagnosed?

Parkinson’s disease dementia cannot be diagnosed through a particular test but instead involves an elaborate series of comprehensive tests and indicators to get an idea of a person’s status. Once diagnosed, a neurologist is likely to track the patient’s progress by monitoring them for any signs of dementia. Since the risk for dementia increases with old age, a doctor is most likely to continue conducting frequent tests that monitor a patient’s mental health, memory recall, and cognitive functions.

Related: Is Wet Brain A Form Of Dementia?

What are the Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

The common risk factors for developing Parkinson’s disease dementia, as determined by extensive research, are as follows:

  • You are aged 65 or older.
  • You suffer from existing mild cognitive impairment.
  • You exhibit symptoms of chronic motor impairment, such as gait disturbance or rigidity.
  • You suffer from diagnosed psychiatric symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, such as depression or hallucinations.

How is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no single or definitive treatment or drug that can completely cure Parkinson’s disease dementia. However, extensive research in this domain is underway, and scientists are looking for treatment plans that can help manage the risks and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. 

Related: What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Childhood Dementia?

What are the Stages of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia?

Although Parkinson’s disease is categorized into five distinct stages, Parkinson’s dementia stages are unclear and understudied. However, The Weill Institute for Neurosciences predicts the average time from the onset of Parkinson’s disease to the development of dementia to be around ten years. Research shows that about 83% of individuals living with this disease for more than 20 years develop dementia.

American board certified neurologists at NeuroX offer affordable and top-notch psychiatric and neurological care right at your doorstep. You can now choose a medical specialist of your choice by looking through their medical qualifications and specializations and get a consultation within 24-48 hours of booking an appointment. Head over to NeuroX right now to book your slot!

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