Parkinson’s is often diagnosed in a person’s 40’s or 50’s, but it can also be diagnosed much earlier. The disease is thought to be brought on by a combination of environmental and genetic factors, and is most often managed with medication.
What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition. In people with Parkinson’s disease, some of the brain cells that create the chemical dopamine have died. These cells are needed to control physical motion and mood. The disease gets worse over time, but its progression affects people differently – as do its symptoms.
In this type of neurological disease, the messages between the brain and parts of the digestive system result in slower passage of food, reduced sensations in the rectum, and control of the anus, which can result in constipation and bowel leakage. Some may also experience bladder function problems at some stage of their disease.
Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease
Typical symptoms of Parkinson’s are:
- Motor function symptoms, such as slowness of motion, stiffness, and tremors
- Non-motor symptoms, such as problems with swallowing, and speaking, as well as bladder and bowel emptying. These symptoms may be further aggravated by impaired sensations, reduced mobility/balance, and lower limb dysfunction
Bladder Problems in Parkinson's Disease
Two bladder conditions are commonly reported in people with Parkinson’s: urge incontinence and nocturia. These conditions (or any other bladder problem that a person with Parkinson’s might experience) may be a result of signal problems between the brain and the bladder. Not everyone with Parkinson’s experiences bladder problems, but for those that do, the symptoms can get worse as the disease progresses.
Urge incontinence is also known as an overactive bladder (OAB). Someone with an overactive bladder experiences unwanted contractions that are difficult to control. They may feel the need to urinate immediately, without warning, even if the bladder is not full. OAB can be very disturbing, and some people may also experience leakage.
Nocturia is the need to urinate several times during the night because of OAB. This wakes people up or results in bed wetting. Interrupted sleep (and fatigue) due to nocturia is one of the most common non-motor symptoms in people with Parkinson’s.
Intermittent catheterization can be a treatment option to manage these symptoms, read more about it here.
Bowel Problems in Parkinson’s Disease
Constipation is the most common bowel problem for people with Parkinson’s. The reason is the reduced mobility, slower movements and rigid muscles cause a slower transit of the bowel content.
Parkinson’s can also affect the ability to chew and swallow food, and it can be difficult to eat a diet with enough fiber content to help keep the stools soft. Swallowing fluids may also be difficult, which in turn will impact stool consistency. Medications, both drugs for Parkinson’s disease and antidepressants, can make constipation worse. Difficulties to maintain a healthy lifestyle and staying active can increase the risk of constipation.
Bowel irrigation is an option to manage bowel problems that you can discuss with your healthcare provider and read more about here
Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction
What is bladder and bowel dysfunction and how do they correlate with each other? In a lot of cases, bladder and bowel symptoms coexist side by side and interact. Here we explore why.
Living with Bladder Problems
To live with a condition that requires you to catheterize on a regular basis may feel overwhelming in the beginning. Find comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
Living with Bowel Problems
Here we explore our best tips and tricks for anyone starting their bowel care journey.
For Healthcare Professionals
Parkinson's disease and bowel dysfunction
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological condition. PD develops when cells in a part of the brain, substantia nigra, stop working properly and are lost over time.
Evaluating bowel dysfunction
Bowel dysfunction is surrounded by misconceptions and taboos that may interfere with treatment and result in self-medication that could be harmful to patient care.