Those familiar with Parkinson’s disease are likely aware of the disorder’s most visible symptoms, including slower movements, impaired balance, rigidity/stiffness and involuntary shaking.
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are different treatment options, as well as assistive devices, to address motor and nonmotor symptoms. When people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones report the variety of symptoms associated with the disease, it can help determine what treatment option is best for them.
However, Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative brain disorder, can cause a range of nonmotor symptoms, which bring about a new set of challenges for patients and their caregivers.
These nonmotor symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions and mood disorders, so be sure to discuss them with your doctor.
1. Hallucinations. More than half of all people with Parkinson’s experience hallucinations or delusions over the course of their disease. Hallucinations can cause people to see, hear, or experience things that aren’t real. For example, people with Parkinson’s commonly report seeing groups of people or animals that in actuality are not there. As hallucinations become more frequent, patients may become unable to distinguish what’s real and what’s imagined and react to their hallucinations. Hallucinations can lead to increased patient and caregiver distress, and even nursing home placement.
2. Delusions. Delusions are false beliefs not supported by evidence, and in people with Parkinson’s, delusions often have paranoid themes. For example, a person with Parkinson’s might make accusations about their spouse or someone else trying to access their life savings. Another common delusion is a longtime spouse committing adultery.
Studies have shown that many experiencing these symptoms do not report them to their doctors, possibly because they are embarrassed or don’t understand the symptoms are associated with the disease, and most discussion is focused on motor symptoms.
3. Cognitive Changes. As explained by the National Parkinson Foundation, problems with attention, inability to focus on planning, difficulties with memory and language, and personality changes characterize the cognitive changes that can take place over time with Parkinson’s.
4. Sleep Disorders. A range of sleep disorders includes insomnia, restless leg syndrome, talking or moving during sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep disorders can impact overall health and well-being.
5. Mood Disorders. Depression, anxiety and irritability can also affect those with Parkinson’s. One study showed that up to 40 percent of people with Parkinson’s experience some form of anxiety in the course of their illness.
6. Additional Nonmotor Symptoms. These range from vision problems to hypertension and loss of sense of smell. These symptoms can also appear before a diagnosis and should be noted.
More information about Parkinson’s disease and its nonmotor symptoms can be found at parkinson.org.