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Parkinson's Disease Health Center

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Depression Takes a Toll on Parkinson's Patients

Depression & Parkinson's Disease Details

Mood disorders are common among people with Parkinson's, the researchers found. Besides widespread depression, anxiety is common.

"We have become more acutely aware over the last few years that these non-movement factors are impacting people's quality of life," Okun says.

Doctors should screen people with Parkinson's for depression at least once a year, the foundation says. Patients are encouraged to report mood changes to their doctors. Family members are also encouraged to accompany them to doctor’s visits and to discuss any changes in patients’ mood.

Treatment with medications and talk therapy, as well as getting regular exercise, can help, according to the researchers. "People's quality of life can significantly improve," Oberdorf says.

It's important to realize, Oberdorf says, that the depression is part of the disease, a chemical phenomenon. "It's not, 'Oh, I have Parkinson's disease and I'm depressed,'" she says.

The depression, she and others say, is related to changes inherent in the disease, such as a decline in the brain chemical dopamine. It helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers.

Tracking Parkinson's Disease: Other Findings

After depression, mobility issues affected a patient's health status the most, the researchers found.

Mobility problems can affect balance, walking ability, and everyday tasks.

Exercising more than 2.5 hours a week is linked with fewer mobility problems and less difficulty in doing everyday activities, according to the researchers.

While all the centers were considered expert at caring for Parkinson's disease patients, the care itself varied, the research found.

There were different referral rates, for instance, to physical, occupational, and other therapists.

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