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Studies show rise in anxiety for people battling Parkinson’s Disease

Research shows increase in anxiety for those with PD amid pandemic.
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 5:35 AM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - April is Parkinson’s Disease (PD) awareness month and its been challenging for those living with the disease. According to the American Parkinson Disease Association (ADPA) studies have shown the coronavirus pandemic has been tough for people with PD.

“There has been increases in anxiety, depression, and generally in isolation, and so there’s been a lot of effects of the entire situation with people with PD,” said ADPA Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Rebecca Gilbert.

She said in Nevada about 10,000 people have the neurodegenerative disorder. Dr. Gilbert explained that’s when nerves in the brain die which could lead to different symptoms, most commonly tremors.

ADPA said the study “Incidence of Anxiety in Parkinson’s Disease During the Coronavirus Disease (COVID‐19) Pandemic” shows 20% of patients polled felt the pandemic has exacerbated their symptoms. It also shows 12% increased their medication use during the pandemic.

According to ADPA another study of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on PD patients was conducted. Patients from the movement disorders clinic were assessed over the phone. The study demonstrated, compared to controls, PD patients had significantly increased levels of stress, depression and anxiety along with decreased measures of quality of life, as compared to controls. It also shows PD patients also reported a significant decline in physical activity as compared to pre-lockdown.

During the last year Dr. Gilbert said there’s been an increase in different types of communications as a result of the coronavirus lockdowns.

“So we have definitely seen a lot of family connections over zoom and other platforms like that, and people have been able to reach out to exercise programs via the internet as well as social support and support groups over the internet.”

Dr. Gilbert said as PD advances and symptoms become more problematic, then the risk of COVID-19 complications do increase and can increase quite dramatically. “So we have seen that, some of the advance Parkinson’s symptoms include trouble swallowing or taking a deep breath. All those things may impact how a person navigates the actual COVID infections.”

She continued, “For people with Parkinson’s in general we have been very encouraging of the vaccine, most people are eligible at this point to get the vaccine, and we have been really strongly encouraging to do so, most of the patients that I see have in fact got their vaccine which has really changed the landscape which is wonderful.”

Dr. Gilbert encourages those with PD to eat healthy and exercise. “It turns out there’s a tremendous amount of scientific data to support that as well, many studies in the last 10 to 15 years have really established how important exercise is both for symptom control as well as potentially even to delay some of the symptoms that may develop in the future.”

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