Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, Everything You Need to Know

Brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s cause irreversible damage to the mind. Movement, cognitive, and behavioural changes result from this damage to the brain since it vastly alters how the nerve cells function.
This article aims to thoroughly examine these two conditions and investigate Parkinson’s Dementia and its signs, progression, and treatments.

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

The most prevalent type of dementia in senior citizens, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is an irreversible deterioration of the brain that impairs memory, cognition, behaviour, and other functions before it eventually results in death from total brain failure. The chance of developing this type of dementia varies by genetic and environmental variables, such as food, exercise, smoking, traumatic brain injury, diabetes, and other medical conditions. 

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

The presence of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is evident when a person exhibits at least two of the following three symptoms: tremors, rigid muscles, and bradykinesia (at rest). Numerous additional PD-related symptoms are also well-known, including an expressionless face, muted voice, delayed handwriting, and trouble rising from a chair. A number of symptoms of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease are brought on by malfunctioning and dying dopamine-producing brain cells.
Although a small number of cases are connected with poisoning, head trauma, more complex neurological conditions that resemble Parkinson’s disease, or reversible toxic drug side effects, the majority of cases are referred to as “idiopathic,” meaning the origin is still unknown.

Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, Young woman helping old man to stand up

Age of Onset in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease 

The majority of AD sufferers have the late-onset variety, in which symptoms don’t start to manifest until the mid-60s. Only a few cases of Parkinson’s disease start before the age of 40. PD is less prevalent than AD, with three occurrences per 1,000 persons, but it is still a significant contributor to neurological illness in older adults.

Only a small portion of AD and PD patients have “early-onset” disease. PD symptoms might appear before the age of 50. Although not always, early-onset PD forms are frequently inherited. The early-onset variant of AD starts before age 60. Many, but not all, individuals with early-onset AD inherited a particular gene.

Link Between Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease 

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are brought on by the same brain cell death that causes the symptoms of AD. Dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain, aids in the control and coordination of muscle movement. Parkinson’s disease gradually destroys the nerve cells that produce dopamine.

The nerve cells cannot properly relay instructions to the body without this chemical messenger. This results in decreased muscle function and coordination. Researchers are baffled as to why these brain cells vanish.

According to the Weill Institute for Neurosciences, the average time between the onset of Parkinson’s movement problems and the development of dementia is about ten years.

Parkinson’s disease is divided into five stages, but the stages of Parkinson’s Dementia are not as well understood.

Cognitive Decline in Parkinson’s Dementia

Although Parkinson’s Dementia is much less common than AD, both conditions are prone to cognitive decline. In up to half of those with Parkinson’s disease, cognitive issues can range from mild dementia to full-blown dementia. In PD dementia, the trouble is with memory retrieval rather than the storage of new information. 

Parkinson’s disease dementia can cause the following problems:

  • Speaking and communicating with others
  • Problem-solving
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Impulsivity
  • Understanding abstract concepts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in energy levels
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Slurred speech
  • Sleep disturbances

Stages Of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

If you have Parkinson’s Dementia disease, you will most likely be unable to live alone at some point. This disease impairs your ability to care for yourself, even if you can physically perform daily tasks in the initial stages of Parkinson’s Dementia.

The later stages of Parkinson’s dementia have more severe symptoms that may necessitate assistance moving around, 24-hour care, or a wheelchair. Life quality can deteriorate quickly.

Infection, incontinence, pneumonia, falls, insomnia, and choking become more likely. In the later stages, hospice care, memory care, home health care, social workers, and support groups can be beneficial.

Lewy Body Dementia vs. Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Lewy body dementia is a type of dementia that progresses due to abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein in the brain. For more on this, check out Lewy Body Dementia vs Alzheimer’s disease.
Symptoms shared by Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease dementia include movement problems, rigid muscles, and difficulties thinking and reasoning.
Therefore, they are likely to share a similar set of abnormalities, though more research is necessary to confirm this.
Another key problem is that many people with Parkinson’s disease dementia and DLB have plaques and tangles, which are hallmark brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Mixed dementia occurs when proof of more than one type of dementia exists in the brain.

Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, Doctor helping an elderly woman with Parkinson's disease get up from a sofa in a rehabilitation facility

Prevalence of Parkinson’s Disease Dementia 

Parkinson’s disease is a relatively common neurological disorder in older adults, affecting nearly 2% of those over the age of 65. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million Americans have Parkinson’s disease. By 2030, this number will rise to 1.2 million.

How is Parkinson’s Disease Dementia Diagnosed and Treated?

There is no single test — or set of tests — that can definitively determine whether a person has Parkinson’s disease dementia.

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease dementia occurs when a person develops dementia at least one year after the onset of Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

Furthermore, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease dementia with a single drug or treatment. Doctors are currently focusing on a treatment plan that will help relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. However, some of the medications can exacerbate dementia and related mental symptoms. Consult your doctor to determine the best treatment and medications for you.

Final Words 

Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s are both brain disorders affecting memory, mobility, and communication. Since both conditions are progressive, symptoms may worsen over time. Treatment may help to alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

It is critical to distinguish between different types of neurodegenerative conditions in order to determine the best treatment approach. 

FAQ
Source Alzheimer's Association Bright Focus Foundation Healthline
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