I had a reader ask the question: “Why is there never any commnets on Parkinson’s dementia? It is very real and 40% of Parkinson’s patients deal with it.”
So I began to look into it. And a simply answer to the question posed would be, “because I don’t want to think aobut that stuff.” It’s frightening, to say the least. To propose that this disease could dominate and take over my mind (different than that being my ‘brain’), amongst the other things it’s already taken, frightens me.
But it is a real possibility, no matter how frightening.
An estimated 50 to 80 percent of those with Parkinson’s eventually experience dementia as their disease progresses. The average time from onset of Parkinson’s to developing dementia is about 10 years.
It is believed that the two most common causes for dementia in older people are Alzheimer’s disease (a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. It is the most common cause of premature senility.) and another condiiton called vasular dementia, which is a condition that involves changes to the brain’s blood supply. However, Parkinson’s disease, an HIV infection, head injuries and Lewy body disease have also been known to caused an arise of dementia.
What complicates matters further is that in those having PD dementia, plaques and tangles are also present. Plaques: not the kind dentist removes from your teeth. Tanlges: not the kind you comb out of your hair. No, we’re talking serious stuff here. Plaques are deposits of a protein with a funny name that form around blood cells that have died. As they form through death, these little monsters begin to cling to one another and form clumps – plaques. The little monsters build up between good nerve cells, preventing them to send messages to each other properly.
Tangles are formed of of nerve cells known as tau protein that are either on their way or have made it to death row. They bunch togehter, twisting (or tangling) around each other, forming tangles of nerve cell fibres. While tangling up the paralles stands of tau protein nerve cells, they fall apart, disintegrate and destroy the cells’ irreplaceable communication system.
While all this is going on unawares to the patient, the plaques and the tangles quietly continue to gather inside of the brain, causing other nice and healthy nerve cells to eventually wither away and die a silent death and the area of the brain in which these little monsters had their fun fest shrinks.
If a person with Parkinson’s disease also has these so-called plaques and tangles, this complicates things, as these are the hallmark brain changes that have been found linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
I told you we didn’t want to think about this stuff. But, it’s real. It’s a part of Parkinson’s disease that we need to be aware of, not so that we can try not to think about it, but so that we are able to receive treatment sooner than later, hopefully to postpone some of dementia’s ugly symptoms.