WASHINGTON: Parkinson's disease affects 6.3 million people worldwide with 40 per cent of its patients not only suffering from physical problems but also developing changes in thought, behaviour and judgment, informs a medical expert.
In more advanced stages, these symptoms include hallucinations and paranoid delusions where they become distrustful of even their closest friends and family members.
"While the physical manifestations of Parkinson's disease are difficult to deal with, the changes in thought, behaviour and judgment strain the bonds between patients and their care givers and families," said Bernard Ravina, director of the Movement and Inherited Neurological Disorders Unit at the University of Rochester, New York.
According to a recent online survey, over a third of those attending to patients of Parkinson's are unaware that changes in thought, behaviour, and judgment can accompany the disease.
"As a registered nurse (RN), I was prepared for the physical problems with my husband's Parkinson's disease, but was totally unprepared for the psychiatric issues," said Carol McLain, a care giver who took the survey.
"It's the non-physical symptoms of the disease that are often most devastating for both the patient and care giver. As the patient's mental health deteriorates, the family often has to make the painful and expensive decision of moving the patient into a nursing home," said Ravina.
There are currently no approved treatments for these particular non-physical symptoms of Parkinson's disease, according to a Rochester release.
Nevertheless, doctors often resort to the use of potent anti-psychotic drugs to treat these symptoms even though these drugs sometimes have serious side effects, particularly in the elderly, including worsening of motor skills, excessive sleepiness, increased infections, stroke, and sudden death in some patients.