Long Term Effects
With time, a person's degree of motor disability does tend to increase. After about 10 to fifteen years of illness, the symptoms will often begin to interfere with daily activities.
Advanced Parkinson's Disease
As the disease progresses over time, symptoms related to Parkinson's disease typically get worse, and new problems emerge. Patients continue to receive significant benefit from their anti-parkinsonian medication, but the benefit does not last as long any more ("wearing off"), so that patients typically take their medications more frequently. Many patients also experience involuntary movements, making them look "fidgety", during times when the medication otherwise works the best (so-called levodopa-induced dyskinesias). It is important to emphasize that these movements typically do not bother the patient very much.
Other problems that may occur as Parkinson's disease progresses include the following:
- Problems with gait and balance, including falls
- Difficulty communicating (speech impairment)
- Swallowing difficulty
- Weight loss
- Cognitive impairment (thinking, memory) and behavioral problems
- Autonomic problems, e.g. difficulty with urination, sexual dysfunction, light-headedness
Some of these problems are more difficult to treat with medications than others, but an experienced doctor (ideally a movement disorder-trained neurologist) will still be able to provide guidance and support for a patient and his/her loved ones, even in advanced stages of Parkinson's disease.
For more information about the University Physicians Consultation and Referral Service, please call 1-800-492-5538 (patients) or 1-800-373-4111 (physicians).