Latest Research on COVID-19 & Parkinson’s disease
UPDATE: This post (originally published in June) has been updated with the latest information available.
We will continue to keep this post up-to-date as new information develops.
As citizens of the world, we all continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. And as members of the Parkinson’s disease (PD) community, we continue to have specific concerns about COVID-19 and how it relates to PD. There is so much information out there, some of it misinformation, so it is important to rely on credible, trusted sources. In this post, I will cover the latest information (as of the date this was published) that investigates the relationship between PD and COVID-19.
What the research data tells us
Over the past eight months, physicians and scientists with expertise in PD have gathered their preliminary data on the experience of people with PD with COVID-19. These findings have been published in journals for others to learn from. This type of work is not unique to PD of course. Physicians are collating the data on how COVID-19 affects different people with the entire array of human conditions.
The data falls into two general categories:
Data regarding the lived experience of people with PD during the era of the pandemic COVID-19 (meaning the effect of the COVID-19 situation at large on their lives, not the effects of having contracted the virus)
Data regarding people with PD who have contracted COVID-19
Studies that investigate the relationship between PD and COVID-19
A study of anxiety during the pandemic was conducted in Iran. Patients with PD were asked to fill out questionnaires to rate their levels of anxiety. Questionnaires also contained questions related to PD and COVID-19. Data was collected from patients, caregivers and controls. The study showed that:
Levels of moderate and severe anxiety were significantly increased in PD patients over caregivers or controls.
20% of patients that were polled felt that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated their PD symptoms.
12% increased their PD medication use during the pandemic.
A study of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on PD patients was conducted in Egypt. Patients from the movement disorders clinic were assessed over the phone. The study demonstrated that:
Compared to controls, PD patients had significantly increased levels of stress, depression and anxiety along with decreased measures of quality of life, as compared to controls.
PD patients also reported a significant decline in physical activity as compared to pre-lockdown.
Two movement disorders groups – one in London and one in Italy – published a case series of 10 patients with advanced PD symptoms and COVID-19. The average age of the group was 78 with a 12-year duration of disease. The study showed that:
Most of the group that was studied required additional levodopa during their COVID-19 infection.
Anxiety, fatigue, orthostatic hypotension, cognitive impairment, and psychosis worsened during the infection.
Four patients (40%) died.
The case series was not large enough to statistically determine if risk of death is increased in people with advanced PD over other patients of the same age.
Another study took a different approach and did not report on the known cases of