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Weighted Blankets Are Popular Sleep Aids, So I Bought Two

weighted blanket

Sleep.

It used to be something that came to me as natural as breathing. Now, it eludes me, and I struggle to get the rest my body needs.

My body is exhausted, but my mind does not agree. I think about what I should have done that day but didn’t get to and what I need to do tomorrow. Something always keeps the hamster running on the wheel.

Eventually, my mind cooperates, but sometimes it is too late. My legs wake up, they “jig and jive,” and anxiety follows. Sleep and anxiety are not friends. They do not peacefully coexist.

After reading good things about sleep and weighted blankets, I purchased one. Weighted blankets are promoted as having calming and beneficial effects for ADHD, autism, and many other conditions including Parkinson’s. My hope was to find relief for my restless legs and the anxiety that comes with them.

If you are unfamiliar with weighted blankets, they are weighted with glass beads, plastic pellets, or other fillers. The blanket provides gentle pressure over your body. In a way, it feels like a hug. The effect can be both comforting and calming.

The concept sounds simple. However, I quickly discovered a few things with my first blanket that led to the purchase of my second blanket.

All weighted blankets are not created equal and they are not “one size fits all.”

So, how do you know which blanket will work best for you?

Let’s start with weight. Experts recommend a blanket that is approximately 10 percent of your body weight. Adjust the weight to feel comfortable. For example, if you find it difficult to roll over or if you feel trapped, a lighter blanket may be better for you.

Different designs also are available. The design and stitching are important. Look for a blanket designed with beads sewn into separate sections. This will distribute the weight evenly.

Some blankets, like my first one, appear to have separate sections but they are not sewn shut. The beads and the weight become concentrated in one area. The blanket becomes difficult to maneuver and uncomfortable. Like me, you will find yourself buying a second blanket.

Once you find the right blanket, it can be a great sleeping aid for the entire night or for a power nap. However, be patient. It takes some time to adjust to the weight.

In the beginning, I only covered my legs. Each night, I pulled the blanket a little higher to cover more of my body. I was completely under the blanket in a few days. I was comfortable and benefiting from the gentle pressure it provided. The blanket has become an essential tool in my Parkinson’s toolbox.

From my personal experience, there is one last piece of advice worth mentioning. Stand next to the bed, spread out the blanket, crawl in, and cover up. Attempting to spread out the blanket while sitting in bed may result with both you and the blanket on the floor.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Fighting Fear Ahead of Another Surgical Procedure

surgery

I have had several surgeries in my lifetime but have never fretted over them beforehand. I think that’s because the procedures were all to deal with my Parkinson’s disease, and I explicitly trusted the doctors in each situation.

As I write this, I have another surgery tomorrow, and I must admit that I am a bit nervous. Not because I don’t have confidence in the doctor who will perform the surgery, but because I haven’t had a surgery that didn’t involve my brain. You’d think I have that backward. 

I am going in for something unrelated to my brain and I’m more nervous than I was about having a seven-hourlong brain surgery. And I’m pretty sure I know why. 

Several years ago, I came across a story about Haldol (haloperidol). For those of you who don’t know (and most people don’t), Haldol is an antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia and other mental or mood disorders. The story I happened upon was about a man who lost his father-in-law to what he believed to be negligence by hospital staff after they administered Haldol to him, a Parkinson’s patient. (You can read about it here.)

After reading about the medication’s side effects, I gathered as much knowledge as I could about Haldol and how it affects those who have Parkinson’s. I have tried to educate those who read my blog and my column here at Parkinson’s News Today. I began receiving messages from others who had similar stories. They were heartbreaking enough to unnerve anyone battling Parkinson’s.

This is what unnerved me: The possibility of receiving a medication that could leave me like a vegetable is real. And that is what makes being prepared for a hospital visit extremely important, especially if you are a Parkinson’s patient.

The flip side

There is a flip side to all of this worrying, and it is called success. We register for our surgeries, fill out our questionnaires and HIPAA forms, pay our fees, and stand at the waiting room door that separates us from our physicians and the procedures.

Eventually, we are ushered through the doors, down the halls, and into the rooms where we are prepped. And then we go, hoping for obstacle-free experiences within the four walls of the surgery room.

Fast-forward, and there I was, past all points of progress and ready for surgery: IV inserted, vitals taken, papers signed, rolled into the operating room, and bam! Out like a light. And just like that, I was awake again. That is when I realized that I had found it: success. 

No bad meds were administered, no hurdles were thrown in front of me while I lay on the cold table. I realized then that I had been granted another day to pull up my bootstraps once again, move forward in faith, and trust that age-old promise that all things work together for my good. For that, I am truly grateful.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Cannabidiol Found to Reduce Anxiety-induced Tremors in Parkinson’s Patients, Study Shows

Cannabidiol (CBD)

A single dose of cannabidiol (CBD) can decrease anxiety and tremor strength in people with Parkinson’s disease during situations known to induce anxiety, such as a public speaking exercise, a study found.

The results of the study, “Effects of acute cannabidiol administration on anxiety and tremors induced by a Simulated Public Speaking Test in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Cannabidiol — and the different molecules found in the Cannabis sativa plant — has attracted much attention since its widespread legalization. One of the main components of the plant, CBD does not have psychoactive properties, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main hallucinogenic component of cannabis.

It does have anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing properties.

Given that, and due to its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, CBD has been studied for use in a number of conditions, namely epilepsy — where it is approved to treat certain types of the disorder — inflammatory diseases, cancer, psychiatric disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.

CBD also has been tested in a number of anxiety studies and has previously been shown to decrease anxiety in healthy volunteers. Now, researchers tested the potential of CBD as an anti-anxiety treatment for people with Parkinson’s.

In addition to motor symptoms, such as tremors and freezing, Parkinson’s also is characterized by several non-motor symptoms, including anxiety. Around 67% of people with the neurodegenerative disease have reported this symptom, with anxiety-inducing situations aggravating their Parkinson’s tremors.

The anxiety treatments currently available, such as selective serotonin inhibitors — the most commonly prescribed antidepressant — and benzodiazepines, have side effects which aggravate Parkinson’s symptoms.

The researchers say better options without side effects are needed for treating anxiety, especially in the elderly and in this particular patient population.

So far, cannabidiol has been described as safe, and seems to have very few side effects, making it a good prospective treatment option. However, scientists say more studies are necessary to evaluate CBD, as it is crucial to confirm that the treatment does not interact with other parkinsonian medications.

To learn more, a team of Brazilian researchers conducted a clinical trial in which 24 people with Parkinson’s disease, mean age 64.13 years, took a single, 300 mg dose of CBD or a placebo 90 minutes before being asked to do a public speaking test. This is a common way of inducing anxiety in an experimental setting. The participants had to give a talk on a subject such as “transportation in their city” and were recorded while doing so. They were told that the videos would be analyzed by a psychologist.

The participants all reported the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms after age 50, and had a mean disease duration of 6.5 years. Most individuals were taking levodopa (19 patients) as well as other medications.

All of the patients took part in two experimental sessions within a 15-day interval, during which their blood pressures, heart rates, tremors, and moods were measured at different time points.

The scientists found that the amplitude of tremors was significantly lower in patients who received cannabidiol compared with placebo — and CBD also significantly reduced the anxiety level. There were no differences in any of the other measurements between the CBD and placebo groups.

“These observations suggest that CBD may be an alternative treatment for patients with PD and anxiety,” the researchers said.

CBD’s mechanism of action is not well-understood, since it has many different targets in the brain. Two targets, serotonin 1A receptor (5-HT1A) and cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1), have previously been linked to anxiety. As such, the researchers said the interaction of CBD with 5-HT1A and CB1 could in part explain how the compound might be working.

The investigators noted that the study has several limitations. One was its small size — only 24 people participated, 22 of whom were men. In addition, the speaking test was done just 90 minutes after taking CBD. More time might have been needed to see the full effect of the treatment, they noted. The study also lacked active comparators for CBD, such as other anti-anxiety therapies.

Despite these drawbacks, the initial results are promising enough to warrant further investigation into how CBD works in the brains of Parkinson’s patients, the researchers said.

“This is the first study that shows the anxiolytic effects of CBD in patients with PD and its ability in attenuation of the tremor amplitude in anxiogenic situations,” they said.

The investigators suggest future experiments should include more patients and different doses of cannabidiol, for example, having participants take CBD every day instead of in a single dose. Further research is necessary to confirm the calming effects of CBD and what quantity and frequency is optimal for the best results in people with Parkinson’s, they said.

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Parkinson’s Disease and the Uninvited Guest

parenting

When Parkinson’s entered my life, it brought an uninvited guest along with it: Parkinson’s me.

Parkinson’s me follows me everywhere and is part of everything I do. Most of the time, she quietly stays in the background. Other times, she is overwhelming, to the point where putting on my brave face becomes exhausting. Until recently, I didn’t always like Parkinson’s me, but I’m trying to understand her instead of simply being afraid of her.

Parents with early onset Parkinson’s are in the busiest times of their lives. Any situation can become stressful and trigger symptoms. Despite my best efforts, Parkinson’s me tends to arrive front and center. It’s not uncommon for her to have a completely irrational response to things. Indeed, anxiety and Parkinson’s are good friends often seen together. Their relationship manifests as a nonmotor symptom that, when overlooked, can be debilitating, frustrating, and embarrassing.

I feel helpless when Parkinson’s affects my ability to parent my child. Parkinson’s me always seems to arrive when my kid needs me — at tryouts, auditions, school functions, and other crowded events. For example, Parkinson’s me accompanied my son to a crowded audition, complete with tremors and a feeling of panic. My son put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Mom, I’ve got this. You can go.”

I was embarrassed and felt horrible for leaving, but he was right to send Parkinson’s me on her way. Rather than being embarrassed by what I could not do as a parent, I should have been proud of my son’s confidence and his ability to handle this situation and many others.

If we’re open about Parkinson’s and willing to talk to them about our diagnosis, kids are incredibly perceptive and resilient. In my opinion, we should help them understand Parkinson’s so they are not afraid of it.

Ultimately, we are still their parents. We just happen to have Parkinson’s.

If you find yourself embarrassed by your disease as a parent, stop and ask yourself the following questions: Did you get the job done? Was your kid strong and confident? The answers will be “yes” because you are a parent. Your kid knows that you don’t quit.

You may stumble and fall, but you will always get up. They are confident that you will be there for them, which is a direct result of your efforts, despite the challenges that come with Parkinson’s.

It is not easy to admit, but Parkinson’s me actually can get the job done. The job is just done differently, and that’s OK.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Parkinson’s Disease and the Uninvited Guest appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Depression Is Risk Factor for Impulse Control Disorders in Parkinson’s Patients, Study Finds

depression

Patients with Parkinson’s are at a greater risk of developing impulse control disorders (ICDs) if they are depressed, according to results from an international study.

The findings also revealed that treatment with dopamine agonists increases this susceptibility, and caution is advised when prescribing such therapies to depressed Parkinson’s patients.

The study, “Depression as a risk factor for impulse control disorders in Parkinson’s disease,” was published recently in the journal Annals of Neurology.

Depression and ICDs are two of the most common non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. However, while depression often precedes the onset of motor problems, ICDs are related to Parkinson’s treatment, especially to dopamine agonists. “This association with [dopamine agonists] makes ICDs a potentially avoidable disorder,” the researchers wrote.

Prior studies have shown that depression and ICDs often coexist in people with Parkinson’s, but were not able to assess whether depression increases the susceptibility for ICDs.

A team of Spanish researchers used data from the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, a multi-center clinical trial to identify biomarkers of Parkinson’s progression, to address this gap. A total of 354 patients were included, mostly from specialized university hospitals in the U.S. and Europe. None had ICD at baseline, as assessed with the Questionnaire for Impulsive Compulsive Disorders in Parkinson’s Disease.

ICD and medication use were evaluated at follow-up evaluations every three months initially, and every six months after visit four. The researchers also evaluated anxiety with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, apathy with the Movement Disorders Society-Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (MDS-UPDRS), and sleep impairments via the REM sleep behavior disorder screening questionnaire.

At baseline, 54.8% of patients were aged between 60 and 75 years and 61.3% were men. The results showed that 68 participants (mean age 60.8 years, 13.3 months since diagnosis) had either depressive symptoms or were diagnosed with depression and taking antidepressants.

The prevalence of depression was higher in women than in men (27.78% vs 15.93%) and depressed patients did not receive dopamine agonists more frequently than non-depressed patients either at baseline or during follow-up.

Also, anxiety and apathy scores were higher in patients with depression (aged 61.6 years, 182 men, 12.7 months since diagnosis).

Over a median follow-up of approximately four years, the patients with depression at baseline showed a nearly two-fold greater risk of developing ICDs, as reflected in an incidence rate of 19.4 cases per 100 patient-years — a measure obtained by multiplying the number of persons at risk over time — compared to 10.3 cases in those without depression.

As shown previously, using dopamine agonists also increased the risk for ICDs. In fact, patients with depression had an ever greater risk of developing ICDs if taking these treatments. Controlling for multiple potential confounding factors — such as age, sex, apathy and anxiety — did not alter these findings.

“Our results show depression acts as a risk factor for the development of ICDs in [Parkinson’s] patients,” the scientists wrote.

“Notably, our results [also] show that the use of [dopamine agonists] in patients with depression is linked to a higher ICD risk,” they added. As such, dopamine should be used with caution in this patient population, the researchers commented.

Importantly, depression should be routinely monitored “to optimize medical decisions regarding the risk of developing ICDs.”

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High Corticosterone Levels a Risk Factor for Parkinson’s, Mouse Study Finds

corticosterone mouse study

High levels of corticosterone — a hormone that regulates energy, immune, and stress responses — is a risk factor for the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease, according to a mouse study.

The study, “Chronic corticosterone aggravates behavioural and neuronal symptomatology in a mouse model of alpha-synuclein pathology,” was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder mainly resulting from the gradual loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, a region of the brain responsible for controlling body movements.

This is a consequence of overproduction and misfolding of the protein alpha-synuclein in neurons, which leads to the formation of small toxic deposits called Lewy bodies that gradually damage and kill nerve cells. Growing evidence has demonstrated that these alpha-synuclein aggregates are associated with Parkinson’s onset and progression.

“Injection of alpha-synuclein preformed fibrils (PFFs) in different brain regions … induces pronounced alpha-synuclein pathology [aggregate] propagation. Interestingly, in these [mouse] models the amygdala is among the brain regions most severely affected by alpha-synuclein pathology [disease],” the researchers wrote.

The amygdala is an area of the brain involved in memory, decision-making, and emotional responses. Several non-motor symptoms in Parkinson’s, including anxiety and depression, have been linked to structural alterations and functional impairments of the amygdala.

“Similarly, chronic stress and glucocorticoid [imbalance] change amygdala physiology [function], and indeed are involved in the development of anxiety and depression,” they wrote.

The group of researchers from the Brain Mind Institute at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland set out to investigate if mood/emotional alterations linked to amygdala dysfunction might accelerate the formation and propagation of alpha-synuclein aggregates associated with Parkinson’s in a mouse model of the disease.

To test their hypothesis, they first treated mice with corticosterone, a glucocorticoid that is normally produced in response to stress, to mimic the effects of depression and chronic stress in the amygdala.

Animals were then injected on one side of the brain’s striatum — a region involved in motor and cognitive control — with either alpha-synuclein preformed fibrils to trigger the formation and propagation of alpha-synuclein aggregates across the whole brain, or with a saline solution (vehicle control).

Chronic treatment with corticosterone triggered depression in animals and had a strong effect on their body shape, fat deposition, body weight, and drinking and eating habits. Injection of alpha-synuclein preformed fibrils had no effects on any of these parameters.

Behavioral tests performed one to two months after the injection of alpha-synuclein showed that animals that had been injected with these fibrils displayed mild anxiety, which was reversed by corticosterone treatment.

However, they found that chronic treatment with corticosterone in animals that had been injected with preformed fibrils led to the accumulation of phosphorylated alpha-synuclein in specific regions of the brain, including the entorhinal cortex, a region involved in memory, spatial navigation, and time perception.

Alpha-synuclein phosphorylation is a chemical modification in which a phosphate group is added to the protein. It is known to occur in Parkinson’s disease, and is thought to be a critical step in disease progression, as it enhances alpha-synuclein’s toxicity, possibly by increasing the formation of aggregates.

They also discovered that treatment with corticosterone in mice that had been injected with alpha-synuclein fibrils increased the loss of dopaminergic neurons.

“We report aggravated alpha-synuclein pathology [disease] and neurodegeneration in mice injected with alpha-synuclein [preformed fibrils] in a condition of heightened corticosterone, suggesting heightened glucocorticoid levels as a risk factor for the development of the neuropathological hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease and potential target for treatment,” the researchers wrote.

“Further studies aimed at elucidating the vulnerability factors of specific brain regions to alpha-synuclein pathology, and why at some point resilience fails and neurodegeneration (such as in the substantia nigra) occurs, are needed and will greatly enhance our understanding of the role of alpha-synuclein pathology in the [development] of Parkinson’s disease and synucleinopathies,” they added.

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Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Added Falls, More Sleep Problems, Depression, Study Shows

low Vitamin D

Low vitamin D levels are associated with a greater tendency for falls, sleep problems, anxiety, and depression in people with Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent study.

The findings, “Relationship between 25‐Hydroxyvitamin D, bone density, and Parkinson’s disease symptoms,” were published in the journal Acta Neurologica Scandinavia.

Vitamin D deficiency and low bone mass are frequently observed in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). In fact, one particular study found that lack of this vitamin is more common in people with Parkinson’s (55% of patients) than other populations, such as people with Alzheimer’s disease (41% of patients).

But the relationship between vitamin D levels and Parkinson’s has remained controversial. Some studies suggest that taking vitamin D3 — a form of vitamin D used in supplements — can stabilize the disease, while others see no relation with the risk of Parkinson’s.

However, most studies have focused on limited aspects of the disease and did not include important outcomes — notably, non‐motor symptoms.

Vitamin D has a vital role in bone health, since it promotes calcium absorption and bone mineralization, which keeps bones strong and healthy. It also blocks the release of parathyroid hormone (PTH), an hormone that promotes bone tissue reabsorption and bone thinning.

Some studies support that lack of vitamin D results in a greater risk of falls and fractures in Parkinson’s patients, which can increase hospitalization and even fatal disability. Its levels also have been associated with cognition and mood, as well as stomach malfunction, in people with the disease.

While it is possible that deficits in this vitamin impact several symptoms of PD, the connection remains unclear.

To shed light on this relationship, researchers at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University and Soochow University, in China, set out to determine if vitamin D levels correlated with bone mineral density (BMD) and non‐motor symptoms in Parkinson’s patients.

The team measured blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D — a precursor of the active form of vitamin D and the most accurate indicator of vitamin D levels in the body — and performed extensive clinical evaluations in 182 Parkinson’s patients as well as 185 healthy people (controls).

Participants were recruited from the Second Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University from March 2014 to December 2017.

Bone mineral density — a measure of bone mass and health — was measured at the lumbar spine and the top of the femur (thigh bone) by bone densiometry, which measures bone loss.

The data showed that people with Parkinson’s had significantly lower vitamin D levels in the blood compared with healthy controls — an average of 49.75 versus 43.40 nanomol per liter of 25(OH)D.

In agreement, low levels of vitamin D (below 50 nmol/l) also were more common in Parkinson’s patients (68.68%) than controls (54.05%).

People with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to fall and experience sleep problems, including difficulty in falling asleep (insomnia). They also had significantly more depression and anxiety.

Mean bone densities in both the spine and femur were lower in PD patients, however no correlation was seen between the levels of BMD and vitamin D.

“Together, these results indicate that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in PD pathogenesis [disease manifestations], while vitamin D supplementation may be used to treat the non‐motor symptoms of PD,” the researchers  said.

“As various non-motor symptoms place a burden on individuals with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers, vitamin D might be a potential add-on therapy for improving these neglected symptoms,” study’s senior author Chun Feng Liu, MD, PhD, said in a press release.

However, the researchers stressed that future studies with a larger sample size are necessary to clarify the role of vitamin D in Parkinson’s disease.

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Women with Depression and Anxiety Are Largest Parkinson’s Group with Fibromyalgia, Study Finds

Parkinson's and fibromyalgia

A distinct population of people are diagnosed with both Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia, a study in Israel found, noting they tend to be women with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, who rely on painkillers more than other Parkinson’s patients.

The study, “Fibromyalgia-Like Syndrome Associated with Parkinson’s Disease—A Cohort Study,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in various parts of the body. Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia share clinical features like muscle stiffness, unusual pelvic and rectal discomfort, poor sleep, fatigue, and depression. Nonetheless, only one case study to date has detailed a patient with both diseases, the researchers said.

“Since PD [Parkinson’s disease] and FM [fibromyalgia] are two relatively common disorders, it is not uncommon for a neurologist, rheumatologist, or a pain specialist to encounter a patient suffering from both illnesses,” they added.

Investigators at the Ben Gurion University sought to retrospectively characterize this specific group of patients, looking at their demographics, comorbidities, and medication use.

The team searched the Clalit Health Services database between the years 2000 and 2015 for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia. Researchers identified Parkinson’s patients through the application of a medication tracer algorithm, and those with fibromyalgia based on medical records.

During this 15-year period, 2,606 people (1,220 women and 1,386 men; mean age 67.9) were diagnosed with Parkinson’s and 60 (2.3%) of them also had fibromyalgia (a fibromyalgia-like syndrome associated with Parkinson’s disease, referred to as FLISPAD).

The majority of those with both the neurodegenerative and rheumatic disorders were women (88.3%) diagnosed at a mean age of 63.95 for Parkinson’s, while their age at fibromyalgia diagnosis varied from 51.68 to 76.22 years. A majority — 77% — also received a fibromyalgia diagnosis after that of Parkinson’s disease.

This particular patient population also had a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, dementia, hypertension, and heart failure.

Compared to those with Parkinson’s, patients with both conditions used different analgesics (painkillers) at higher rates as well as more antidepressants.

“This FLISPAD subgroup of patients are mostly female, younger at PD diagnosis with a higher rate of cigarette smoking, anxiety, and depression,” the researchers wrote. And they “consume more analgesic drugs, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications, including opioids.”

A diagnosis of depression or use of antidepressants tended to come a mean 3.5 years before a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

Results also showed that Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia patients purchased 21.3% more anti-parkinsonian medications than those who did not have fibromyalgia. Although not significant, this finding achieved borderline statistical significance.

“These patients present a challenge for physicians as they use more analgesics, psychotropic medications, and tend to also use more APDs [anti-parkinsonian drugs] over time. More research is needed to determine the etiology and determinants of this syndrome, the needs of patients and course of treatment, both for PD [Parkinson’s disease] and FM [fibromyalgia] symptoms,” the researchers concluded.

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Panic Attacks Can Go Hand-in-Hand with Parkinson’s Disease

panic attacks

Twice in the past month I have had what I am calling panic (anxiety) attacks, which are something I had never experienced before. I had shortness of breath and my heart was beating much faster than normal. Since the only activity I was involved in at the time was trying to go to sleep, it concerned me. It scared me enough that I told my husband about it the following day.

I consulted Dr. Google and here’s what I found:

A study showed that panic attacks in Parkinson’s disease could possibly be a long-term complication of levodopa therapy. The keyword here is “possibly,” which isn’t definitive enough for me, plus the study is from 1993. I skipped that one and continued my search.

Dr. Google led me to the Parkinson’s Foundation, which stated, “Anxiety is a common non-motor symptom of PD. It is important to note that anxiety is not simply a reaction to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s, but is instead a part of the disease itself, caused by changes in the brain chemistry of the brain.”

It went on to say that, “Anxiety (or panic) attacks usually start suddenly with a sense of severe physical and emotional distress. Individuals may feel as if they cannot breathe or are having a heart attack. They may feel they are experiencing a medical emergency. These episodes usually last a few minutes to an hour, particularly when associated with ‘off’ periods, though they can last for longer periods of time.” 

Several different sources agree that some of the symptoms of a panic attack can be trouble sleeping, heart palpitations, hyperventilating, uncontrollable worry, chest pain, dizziness, tunnel vision, and hot or cold flashes.

Bingo. They hit that nail on the head.

The list goes on and it can be hard to diagnose what is happening, as the symptoms mimic other possibilities of what could be going on. 

When I identified what I believed to be the culprit (a panic attack), I made a note to bring it up at my upcoming appointment with my neurologist. Until then, I decided to rely on the hope and faith I had within me. I forced myself to breathe normally and drew deep upon that faith. The attack finally subsided and I was able to quit worrying about getting the porch fixed and the gate repaired and the shower installed and the sink replaced and …

Here I go again … 

This time I’m diving deep into that faith before the panic kicks in. 

***

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Yoga Decreases Anxiety and Depression More Than Resistance Training, Study Finds

yoga, mindfulness

Mindfulness yoga seems to be better than conventional exercise at alleviating depression and anxiety in people with Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent study.

The study with that finding, which was published in the journal JAMA Neurology, is titled, “Effects of Mindfulness Yoga vs Stretching and Resistance Training Exercises on Anxiety and Depression for People With Parkinson Disease.”

It’s well-established that exercising regularly has a multitude of health benefits for people with Parkinson’s. Exercising also is known to have psychological benefits, particularly when a mindfulness component is incorporated.

In the study, the mental health effects of mindfulness yoga and more conventional stretching and resistance training exercises were compared head-to-head.

Researchers recruited 138 adults with Parkinson’s disease at four community rehabilitation centers in Hong Kong, between Dec. 1, 2016, and May 31, 2017. All patients had a clinical diagnosis of idiopathic (of unknown cause) Parkinson’s disease and were able to stand unaided and walk with or without an assistive device.

Individuals were assigned randomly to participate in mindfulness yoga (71 people) or resistance exercises (67 people). A slim majority (52.9%) of the participants were female, the average participant age was 63.6 years, and both groups were similar in terms of demographics, etc., although slightly more in the yoga group were less educated and lived at home.

Both interventions consisted of weekly classes offered once per week, with participants encouraged to practice at home, too. Average attendance rates for the eight-week intervention were 6.1 classes for both groups, and about three-quarters of participants in both groups reported actually practicing at home. Over the course of the study, some participants dropped out for reasons that included disinterest and scheduling conflicts; dropout rates were comparable between the two groups.

Before and after the intervention, depression and anxiety were measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

In the yoga group, anxiety scores decreased from 6.32 before the intervention to 3.04 afterward; this decrease was significantly larger than the decrease seen in the resistance exercise group (5.66 to 4.95). Similarly, depression scores in the yoga group decreased significantly more than those in the conventional exercise group (6.69 to 3.53 vs. 6.16 to 6.00).

Motor skills also were assessed (via the MDS-UPDRS), and similar improvements were observed in both groups: a decrease from 34.90 to 22.41 in the yoga group, and from 31.64 to 23.25 in the resistance exercise group. Of note, higher MDS-UPDRS scores reflect worse motor capacity.

The data suggest that, while both interventions provide comparable physical benefits, the mental health benefits of mindfulness yoga are superior to those of stretching and resistance training exercises.

A few instances of mild knee pain in both groups were the only adverse side effects reported; these were resolved without medical intervention.

“These findings suggest that mindfulness yoga is an effective treatment option for patients with [Parkinson’s disease] to manage stress and symptoms,” the researchers concluded in their paper, adding that “[f]uture rehabilitation programs could consider integrating mindfulness skills into physical therapy to enhance the holistic well-being of people with neurodegenerative conditions.”

Limitations of this study include the small sample size and the fact that participants were fully aware of which group they were put into, so it’s possible that participant bias may have influenced the results.

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