Parkinson’s disease is a brain and movement disorder that is caused when the production of dopamine is reduced severely or ceased by the nerve cells. Dopamine is an essential chemical compound that aids the body in normal motor movements. The symptoms include body tremors, uncontrollable movements, imbalance, slowing down of reflexes and movements.
The onset of Parkinson’s disease is usually gradual and unnoticeable in the earlier stages and it cannot be diagnosed by just one definitive test but only by a series of clinical tests. These tests then determine the stage of the disease ranging from Stage one to five. Stage I being the first stage of the onset of the disorder and Stage V being the last stage.
The initial symptoms are subtle and when considered individually often go unnoticed. Some of the most common symptoms predicting the onset of the disorder are:
- Tremors or shaking.
- Reduction in the size of your handwriting.
- Loss of smell.
- Difficulty in walking and standing.
- Masked face (Having an expressionless or serious face when your mood is not so).
These symptoms are just some of the many that require the physician’s consultation and expertise to determine if the onset of Parkinson’s disease is imminent or not.
Although there is still no direct cause identified for the origin of this disease in a patient, but there is one strong theory of the disease being hereditary. Studies have also shown that men have 50% higher risk of living with the disorder than women.
Various studies have concluded that the life expectancy of patients with Parkinson’s disease is almost the same or slightly less, as that of the general population of the same age. One must understand that even though Parkinson’s disease does not have a cure yet, it is not a fatal illness and hence does not have an adverse effect on the life expectancy of the patient directly. But the disease tends to surface amongst individuals above the age of 60 years and hence in its advanced stages it can pose life threatening complications due to the age.
Taking this into account certain factors that affect the Parkinsons disease life expectancy of patients have been discussed below:
- Fatal Falls
With the normal motor movements of a patient being affected by this disease and in addition to the old age of many of the patients, falls can be a very serious case affecting the life expectancy of the patients. Stage IV and Stage V patients must maintain extreme caution and in many cases patients in this stage are unable to walk on their own or even stand. In such a scenario, a fall could lead to breaking bones, concussions, and further medical complications. These complications coupled with the age of the patient can prove to extremely harmful or even fatal.
The onset of dementia has been seen in almost one-third of the patients with Parkinson’s disease, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Dementia may include having problems with memory, decision making, priority setting, lack of attention span, to name a few. If dementia increases in the patient, then it does have a negative impact on the life expectancy. Studies have shown that the life expectancy of a Parkinson’s disease patient with dementia may go down a low as 3 years less than the general population of the same age.
Related Health Complications
Parkinson’s disease as mentioned before does not directly harm the patient, but it leaves the patient open to various other health complications. The following are some of the complications known to have been instrumental in reducing the life expectancy of patients with Parkinson’s disease:
- Choking on food
- Deep vein thrombosis (blood vessels being blocked by deep clots)
- Pulmonary embolism (blockage of arteries in lungs)
Access To Effective Treatment and Care
Parkinson’s disease does not have a cure, but that does not mean it is fatal. The diagnosis of the disorder in the earlier stages in addition to the proper and effective treatment given to the patient ensures that their life expectancy is as good as anyone else of the general population of the same age. The treatment also includes taking proper care, because Stage V of the disorder makes the patient confined to a wheelchair or bed. This further complicates the condition, but with proper care, the harm caused can be minimized.
It must be remembered that the Parkinsons disease life expectancy for people diagnosed can live long provided they are well taken care of and provided with the required treatment. It can thus be concluded that Parkinsons disease life expectancy of the patients is in the hands of the family, loved ones, and the patient itself.