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Parkinson's Disease Health Center

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Depression Takes a Toll on Parkinson's Patients

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 28, 2012 -- For many people with Parkinson's disease, depression affects quality of life more than the symptoms such as shaking, according to new research.

"At least 50% of people with Parkinson's have depression," says Michael S. Okun, MD, national medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation and professor of neurology at the Center for Movement Disorders at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

That was a main finding of the Parkinson's Outcomes Project, a report released today by the National Parkinson Foundation.

"The big news is how large of a role depression plays in Parkinson's disease, how under-diagnosed and under-treated it is," says Joyce Oberdorf, CEO and president of the foundation.

The impact of depression on the health of people with Parkinson's is nearly twice that of movement problems, the researchers found.

About 1 million people in the U.S. and more than 4 million worldwide have the disease. It is marked by tremors and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination.

Tracking Parkinson's Patients

Beginning in 2009, the researchers evaluated the care of more than 5,500 patients, ages 25 to 95. They went to 20 Centers of Excellence in the U.S., Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands.

About 9,000 clinic visits were included.

The researchers looked at information about medications, referrals to specialists, and rates of depression and anxiety, among other information. The study will be ongoing.

Based on the results, the researchers made some recommendations.

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