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What Factors Affect Life Expectancy with Parkinson's?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Some of the major factors contributing to life expectancy with Parkinson's disease seem to be age, severity of the disease at onset, and pre-existing throat problems. These individual components tend to be naturally-occurring elements of this particular affliction, and may serve to accentuate its effects. Much remains to be learned about Parkinson's, however, as research is ongoing and patients also may live without additional complications, and die from other, natural causes.

Parkinson's is known as a movement disorder. The disease gradually breaks down the central nervous system of the sufferer over a prolonged period of time. This occurs as the neurons that control motor functions begin to degenerate and slow the production and release of the organic chemical neurotransmitter known as dopamine.

The effect of this is typically loss of control of all major motor skills and, ultimately, death. Those with the disease are most often known for shaking tremors in their movements or severe rigidity. They also may walk with a stooped back and shuffling step. The cause of this disease is unknown and no cure exists. Many medications are available to reduce or mitigate the symptoms, however.

The age of the patient at the time when early symptoms of the disease begin to appear plays a role in life expectancy with Parkinson's. The majority of those diagnosed with this disease are over the age of 60, with the number of affected rising dramatically between 70 and 80 years of age. The patient's natural susceptibility to dementia and brain malfunction can be compounded by the presence of the disease, leading to rapid deterioration. Younger patients, in the age range of 20 to 40 years, diagnosed with Parkinson's tend to live four to seven times longer than patients who begin experiencing symptoms in their 60s or later.

The disease often presents itself with varying degrees of severity. The level of advancement of the disease may also affect an individual's life expectancy with Parkinson's. Some do not experience tremors for several years after their initial diagnosis, and may live longer with the disease than those which undergo violent tremors almost immediately following diagnosis. The reasons for this are unknown.

Patients already suffering from swallowing difficulties or disorders may have a shorter life expectancy with Parkinson's. As the disease progresses through the body, it inhibits an individual's ability to chew, swallow, and speak. In many patients, death occurs from complications associated with a lack of nutrition, as food is difficult to ingest and choking on it is a concern or problem.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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