Parkinson’s Disease can cause many unpleasant side effects and conditions. These include the commonly known physical symptoms such as delayed movement and impaired posture and balance.
When we hear of someone we know being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, we often jump to conclusions and only think of the most well-known symptoms. We will likely expect that person to have a tremor and have problems with walking and coordination. It is estimated that 1 person in every 500 is affected by Parkinson’s disease. This means that there are an estimated 127,000 people in the UK with the condition. However, there is such little understanding of the disease worldwide.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the Substantia Nigra. This loss of nerve cells leads to a reduction in a chemical called Dopamine in the brain. Dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body. A reduction in Dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The exact cause of this loss of nerve cells, however, is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible.
As the condition progresses, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease often get worse and it can become increasingly difficult to carry out basic activities without assistance. Parkinson’s disease doesn’t directly cause loss of life, but the condition can place great strain on the body, and can make some people more vulnerable to serious and life-threatening infections.
Parkinson’s disease can affect a person’s ability to do everyday things that most people take for granted, such as walking for long distances and even driving.
The specific group of symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease can vary from person to person. Primary motor signs of Parkinson’s disease include the following:
- Tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
- Bradykinesia or slowness of movement
- Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
- Postural instability or impaired balance and coordination
However, alongside these common symptoms, it is important to be aware of a symptom which is much less understood and spoken about; the development of incontinence and weak bladder control. Still a taboo subject, it is important to be educated of this symptom in order to be as helpful as possible.
Why is incontinence caused by Parkinson’s Disease?
The link between Parkinson’s and Incontinence is due to the communication between the brain and the bladder. The bladder is a muscle which expands gradually as urine collects. At the opening of the bladder, there is a muscle called the sphincter. The sphincter muscle is usually closed except during urination. Both the bladder and the sphincter are controlled by the brain.
Under normal circumstances, when 1-2 cups of urine have collected in the bladder, the bladder may begin to have small contractions that alarm the brain that the bladder is filling up. The brain can then suppress the contractions until it is convenient for the person to go to the bathroom. When the person is ready, the brain allows the bladder to contract while the sphincter relaxes. This allows the urine to leave the bladder.
In Parkinson’s Disease, however, the brain does not have efficient control over the sphincter. The miscommunication and lack of control can cause a person with Parkinson’s Disease to want to empty the bladder even when there is just a small amount of urine present. This results in a frequent urge to urinate, involuntary urination throughout the day and repeated nighttime incontinence. Sufferers can also often find themselves finding it difficult to eliminate urine. The symptoms of difficulty eliminating urine include a weak urinary stream, dribbling or leaking and feeling as though the bladder has never completely emptied.
Additionally, certain medication provided can often add to the problem. Dr Forsyth, a professional Geriatrician, asserts that the effects of drugs that people with Parkinson’s Disease are provided with can cause or worsen incontinence. For example, painkillers such as codeine and anticholinergics prescribed for tremor can cause weak bladder control and constipation.
Often the problems which people with Parkinson’s have in coping with the bladder are caused by difficulties in getting to or using the toilet. The physical difficulties with mobility and the slowness of movement which often occur in Parkinson’s can make getting to the bathroom, or onto the toilet a slow process. For example, the person may find it difficult to get to an upstairs toilet when they are downstairs or may struggle to walk a long distance to a public bathroom.
Delay in movement can mean that even the height of the toilet may be a problem, and the person may simply be scared about falling or slipping whilst they are using the toilet. If there are problems in getting to or using the toilet in addition to urgency, it may simply take too long and the bladder may start to empty before reaching the toilet.
How can I help someone with Parkinson’s Disease and Incontinence?
If you or someone you know has Parkinson’s Disease and is affected by incontinence, there are products you can try to make their life slightly easier. This could be through buying toilet aids to increase confidence about going to the bathroom, and ensure they have the suitable aids to assist them when they do use the bathroom. If balance and falls are a worry, hand rails and commodes can be helpful in assuring the person suffering that they are safe. You can find our range of toilet aids on our website here.
Additionally, it is important to ensure the location of the bathroom is clear and that the route is safe and easy to access. You should aim to make sure that there is no furniture in the way of the bathroom and that the route to the bathroom is safe and will cause no potential danger to the person trying to reach it.
Incontinence pads and products are vital in assisting someone with incontinence to maintain their condition with dignity. You may want to visit our range of incontinence products to see if you can find an ideal product to be of use. To visit our range, simply click here.
To find more information about Parkinson’s disease so you are able to improve your understanding and help people with the condition, you can visit the National Parkinson Foundation website here.