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Parkinson's Patients Are More Susceptible to COVID-19

Parkinson's Patients Are More Susceptible to COVID-19

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  • COVID-19 is a respiratory illness capable of spreading from person to person
  • Devastating effect of the pandemic is most commonly found to affect Parkinson's patients
  • Since the patients with Parkinson’s disease are under the most vulnerable age group (above the 60s), they gain increased susceptibility to coronavirus and its mortality rates
  • It is thereby recommended to follow extended precautionary measures to curtail their risk of contracting the diseases

COVID-19 is shown to particularly affect Parkinson's patients because these often also have many risk factors for a severe course of COVID-19 as per a cross-sectional study at the Ruhr-University Bochum, published in the journal Movement Disorders.

What is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects movement due to loss of nerve cells - neurons that produce a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) in the brain called dopamine (black substance). It is characterized by the formation of inclusion proteins called Lewy bodies.

PD mainly affects over one million people in the U.S. and 10 million worldwide in the second half of their life, more commonly men.


Parkinson's disease is characterized by the gradual onset of mild tremors in just one hand atrest followed by reduced mobility like walking and balancing difficulty, memory deterioration, and carrying out other daily activities.

Increased Risk of COVID-19 in Parkinson's Disease

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness capable of spreading from person to person, as per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The increased risk of catching COVID-19 is not directly posed by PD.

However, the patients with Parkinson's disease are typically older, and since the seniors fall under the most vulnerable age group, they are affected by concomitant diseases such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, or kidney disease.

These significant risk factors for a severe course of COVID-19 enable older adults to gain increased susceptibility to coronavirus and mortality rates.

Increased Comorbidities and Parkinson's Disease

The present detailed nationwide analysis of the data on Parkinson's treatment was done in 1,468 hospitals. It was seen that COVID-19 was more common in hospitalized patients with Parkinson's disease and higher mortality rate when compared to patients without Parkinson's disease.

The predominance was especially more among those over 65 years of age or with severe Parkinson's disease. The known high-risk conditions were also confirmed to be more among the Parkinson's patients who had COVID-19.

Chronic kidney disease, especially in a later stage of the disease, was reported to be more prevalent among those PD patients who died from COVID when compared to survivors.

"Parkinson's patients may be at particular risk for severe Covid-19 due to frailty, which increases with age and advanced disease stages. Lung function may be impaired by common comorbidities and respiratory muscle weakness associated with Parkinson's. In addition, dysphagia makes people more susceptible to pneumonia," says Professor Lars Tönges, who headed the study at the RUB's St. Josef Hospital.

Higher COVID-19 Mortality and PD

The study also evaluated the data from the first wave of the pandemic from 16 January to 15 May 2020 at the St. Josef Hospital of Ruhr-Universitat Bochum (RUB) to compare with the same period of the previous year.

It was found that overall hospital treatments due to Parkinson's disease had decreased by almost one-third during the first wave as many non-emergency treatments were postponed ensuring intensive care capacity.

Also, the number of PD cases fell by almost 70% during the peak of the wave, probably due to the patients' concern about contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the hospital.

"Remarkably, more Parkinson's patients died in hospitals in 2020 than in 2019, which may also be due to circumstances associated with overall Covid-19 disease management. The study illustrates the need to ensure optimal treatment of Parkinson's patients despite the current pandemic," says Tonges.

Utilization of technology for telemedical services should be done so that it can support these groups of patients in the future and avoid mortality rates.

Managing COVID-19 for People with Parkinson's Disease

As older adults are at the highest risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19, extra precautions should be taken to protect themselves from the pandemic.
  1. COVID-19 & Parkinson's - (https://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/covid-19)

  2. Source: Medindia

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