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Can Parkinson’s Cause Seizures?

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An older adult woman rubbing her sore hands due to Parkinson's disease

Navigating the complexities of Parkinson’s disease can feel like decoding a multifaceted puzzle. The range of symptoms, from tremors and slowness of movement to postural instability, can be daunting. Some people with Parkinson’s can experience seizures, and ensuring safety and having access to compassionate support can increase your loved one’s quality of life

Parkinson’s & Seizures 

The question of whether Parkinson’s can cause seizures introduces an aspect of the disease that’s not as commonly discussed. 

While not a typical symptom, reports and studies suggest that individuals with Parkinson’s—especially those in advanced stages—can experience seizures. Understanding seizures within the context of Parkinson’s requires looking at the underlying neurological mechanisms. 

Parkinson’s is primarily associated with the loss of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra. However, as the disease progresses, it can lead to more widespread neural degeneration, a state that can create a setting for the occurrence of seizures. 

This expanded neural vulnerability can predispose those with Parkinson’s to different types of seizures, most commonly partial seizures and complex partial seizures.

In the case of seizures associated with Parkinson’s, the concern isn’t only about the event itself but also about the impact on an already compromised neurocognitive framework. Seizure activity and existing Parkinson’s symptoms can potentially exacerbate cognitive difficulties such as memory loss and confusion.

Signs That Parkinson’s Is Escalating

Parkinson’s disease is known for its slow progression, with subtle and not-so-subtle changes over time. Here are several indicators that Parkinson’s might be advancing, alongside or leading to seizures:

Decline in Motor & Non-Motor Functions

A telltale sign that Parkinson’s is progressing is a worsening of both motor and non-motor symptoms, some of which could indicate the onset of epilepsy. Individuals or caregivers may notice: 

  • A decrease in mobility
  • Worsening resting tremor
  • Greater frequency of falls
  • Mood disorders
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Bladder/bowel problems

On-Off Phenomenon & Medication Adjustments

The on-off phenomenon refers to the fluctuation between periods where medications work well and symptoms are controlled (‘on’) to times when the medications are not working as effectively and symptoms resurface (‘off’). 

These fluctuations can indicate advanced stages where targeting the right medication levels becomes increasingly challenging, and when not correctly balanced, can be associated with an increased risk of seizures.

Cognitive Decline & the Risk of Seizures

Cognitive changes are a significant component of Parkinson’s progression, with patients potentially experiencing varying degrees of cognitive impairment linked to their overall increased risk for seizures. 

This can range from mild cognitive impairment to more significant declines, including dementia with Lewy bodies, a condition closely related to Parkinson’s but characterized by fluctuating cognition.

Frequent & Alarming Seizure Episodes

If seizures become frequent (two or more seizures within 24 hours) or if they last longer than the norm (usually more than five minutes) it’s time to consult healthcare professionals immediately. These alarming signs can indicate an underlying condition putting additional strain on your loved one.

Worsening of Existing Parkinson’s Symptoms

A noticeable decline in the effectiveness of Parkinson’s medications or a significant increase in the frequency and severity of known Parkinson’s symptoms can be an indirect sign of disease progression. These changes indicate a need for an evaluation from a healthcare professional, as worsening symptoms could be a precursor to developing seizures. 

Seizure Triggers in Parkinson’s

Understanding the factors that can trigger seizures in someone with Parkinson’s is crucial. It could involve missing doses of Parkinson’s medication, stress, exhaustion, and even certain medications meant to control Parkinson’s symptoms. Identifying these triggers can often lead to effective intervention strategies.

Managing Dementia & Epilepsy

With these layers of complexity, a multidisciplinary approach to care becomes necessary. 

Managing not just the neurological symptoms of Parkinson’s but also its aftermath in the form of dementia becomes the shared goal for caregivers, neurologists, and the broader healthcare team. Creating strategies to reduce stressors, strict medication management, and collaborative efforts to distinguish seizures from other Parkinson’s symptoms are all essential.

An older adult man sitting with a cane conversing with a nurse holding a book.

The Path Forward

The intertwining of Parkinson’s disease with the potential for seizures highlights the multifaceted nature of this disorder. 

Staying informed and prepared is paramount for those affected and their caregivers. By recognizing early signs, maintaining open lines of communication with healthcare professionals, and deploying a comprehensive care strategy, individuals can optimize their response to the challenges presented by this condition.

Our continuous learning and understanding of conditions like Parkinson’s and its intersection with seizures are defining new paths for care and hope for those living with this disorder. In the end, it’s the knowledge, support, and community we foster that will pave the way for a more inclusive and enriched life for all affected by these conditions.

The Fairways at Naples is committed to enhancing the quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s and related conditions. We invite you to join our community at The Fairways at Naples, where every individual’s needs are met with expertise, empathy, and a genuine desire to make a difference. Together, we can navigate the complexities of Parkinson’s, crafting a pathway filled with support, innovation, and hope. Schedule a tour or contact us today to explore how The Fairways at Naples can be part of your or your loved one’s journey toward a brighter, more supported future.

Written by Fairways At Naples

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