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Progression of Parkinson’s Disease

It is difficult to know how quickly Parkinson’s disease will develop in a given person because the progression of the disease is unique to each individual. Do not rely on what you see in other people with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a slow progressive disease, meaning symptoms worsen over time. The nature and intensity of the symptoms vary from person to person and the first symptoms often go unnoticed. 

Some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as depression, loss of smell and REM sleep behaviour disorder can appear up to 10 years before motor symptoms. Despite symptom progression, it is quite possible to have a good quality of life several years after diagnosis.

Watch out for changes in your symptoms or the development of new symptoms and talk to your neurologist. Although there is no cure yet for Parkinson’s disease, there are many treatments available to alleviate symptoms and prolong your independence as much as possible.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive disease, but it is not fatal. Symptoms tend to develop gradually and become more and more severe. The rate of the disease’s progression, the time it takes for symptoms to appear and their intensity are unique to each person. It is therefore difficult to make predictions about progression.
The first stage of the disease is usually a honeymoon period that can last from 3 to 8 years. It is defined by a mostly normal life and treatment is most effective during this period.

Parkinson’s disease tends to progress slower when the main symptom is tremor, especially if it starts on one side only.

Carefully monitor the progression of your symptoms according to the timing of your medication. This information, collected in a diary 3 to 5 days before you see the neurologist, will help you get the most out of your treatment.

The effectiveness of medication decreases over time and side effects can become increasingly disruptive. Motor symptoms may then reappear during the day and fluctuate according to the medication schedule. These fluctuations may also be associated with “off” periods, during which the person may become completely rigid and immobile for several minutes to several hours. The unpredictability of these periods is anxiety-inducing for many people. Dyskinesias also get increasingly invasive and limit levodopa dosage increase.  

In the final years of the disease, cognitive symptoms such as hallucinations and dementia can also appear, resulting in a loss of autonomy in about 20% of patients.

Parkinson’s disease rarely decreases life expectancy, but some risks associated with aging can increase over time. Decreased balance can lead to falls and dysphagia to pneumonia if left untreated. Other physical or cognitive complications may also appear at the end of life, which can lead to loss of autonomy. 

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