Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body so involuntary shaking is usually one of the first casualties.
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A person with Parkinson’s disease can also experience a wide range of other physical symptoms.
Constipation is one of the most commonly reported physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
According to a review in the International Review of Neurobiology, up to 63 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease experience constipation.
The bowel habit is also recognised as a risk factor in the development of Parkinson’s disease.
It is not entirely understood how Parkinson’s disease disrupts the digestive symptom.
Some health experts believe the link is attributed to the paucity of dopamine found in people with Parkinson’s.
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is involved in controlling muscle movements.
It sends signals that help your muscles to move.
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This makes it more difficult for the bowel muscles to push matter through the GI tract, leading to constipation.
Research also suggests that Parkinson’s disease impacts the physiology and functioning of both the anus and rectum.
In one study, researchers found that people who’d been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease were more likely to have reduced anal sphincter pressure.
According to Parkinson’s UK, another sign when you go to the toilet is urge incontinence.
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Urge incontinence is when you feel the need to urinate immediately, at times without warning.
As Parkinson’s UK explains: “This means that you can’t ‘hold on’ as you might do normally when you feel the urge to go. As a result, you might not reach a toilet in time.”
Again, it is not yet fully understood why Parkinson’s causes this bladder problem but it may happen because the messages the brain sends to the bladder are not going through properly, notes the charity.
In addition to physical symptoms, Parkinson’s disease can cause cognitive and psychiatric symptoms.
According to the NHS, these include:
- Depression and anxiety
- Mild cognitive impairment – slight memory problems and problems with activities that require planning and organisation
Dementia – a group of symptoms, including more severe memory problems, personality changes, seeing things that are not there (visual hallucinations) and believing things that are not true (delusions)
When should I seek medical advice?
“See your GP if you’re concerned you may have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” advises the NHS.
As the health body points out, there’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatments are available to help relieve the symptoms and maintain your quality of life.
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