While most people are familiar with the most obvious signs of Parkinson’s disease, such as stiffness and tremors, Cincinnati senior home care experts note there are actually several symptoms that begin to develop years before the classic signs are apparent. Constipation is a very common early symptom of Parkinson’s disease, but it’s often overlooked because constipation has many possible causes.
Parkinson’s Disease and Constipation
The neurological disease often begins with mild symptoms that worsen over time. While Parkinson’s disease is often considered a movement disorder, the truth is many non-motor functions can be affected by the disease. Many of the early symptoms of PD are subtle and go unnoticed, allowing the disease to progress for years undiagnosed.
Parkinson’s disease causes dopamine-producing neurons to die. Dopamine helps regulate the autonomic nervous system. As the body’s supply of dopamine begins to decline, the autonomic nervous system has difficulty regulating smooth muscle activity, including the bowels and intestinal tract. This means a senior’s intestinal tract operates very slowly, leading to constipation.
Autonomic nervous system dysfunction caused by Parkinson’s can also cause other symptoms, including erectile dysfunction, feeling too hot or cold, low blood pressure when standing, and lightheadedness.
Many medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease, including Cogentin and Artane, can also contribute to constipation, as well as a lack of physical activity and poor diet.
Is It Parkinson’s?
Constipation can be caused by many things, so family members or in-home caregivers can’t necessarily assume that it’s an early sign of Parkinson’s. Other early symptoms that often accompany constipation include:
- A low, soft, or monotone voice
- Loss of smell
- Difficulty sleeping with sudden movements during sleep
- Small, cramped handwriting
- Stiffness or limited range of motion in the arms
- Persistent pain or numbness in the neck
- A masked face
If your elderly loved one is diagnosed with Parkinson’s and you’re unsure about meeting his or her care needs, reach out to Home Care Assistance. We offer live-in and hourly care, as well as specialized Parkinson’s home care in Cincinnati. Although your loved one may not yet require in-home care, it’s never too early to discuss options and have a plan in place should the need arise. Give us a call at 513.891.2273 to speak with a friendly Care Manager who can answer your questions and offer more information on our customized care services.