Parkinson's and depression: a common link

CLEVELAND -- The death of Robin Williams is shedding light on a common link between depression and Parkinson's disease.

Tremors are the most well-known sign of Parkinson's. Others include shorter steps while walking and muscle stiffness. But one symptom is often overlooked: depression.

RELATED: Robin Williams was battling Parkinson's, widow says

Dr. Joseph Hanna at MetroHealth Medical Center says Parkinson's depletes the chemicals in the brain that cause abnormal brain activity.

"Most people with Parkinson's will get depressed at some time, either because of this external cause which is the loss of independence or an internal cause which is because of neurochemical changes," said Dr. Hanna.

As a result, patients not only lose mobility over time, but often the chemical balance needed to control mood. They may start to withdraw, sleep more and eat less.

"When you see this happening to them, get them to a healthcare professional immediately so they can be treated early and we can avoid this problem as happened with Mr. Williams," said Dr. Hanna.

Online chats, like the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research offers, support for people touched by the disease.

Richard wrote, "I just started taking an anti-depressant. For a long time I resisted it because of some idea my superior intellect would get me through."

Susan wrote, "Getting my father on meds for depression was hugely helpful."

Another Susan wrote, "Why suffer and cause suffering to the people around you? Anything that can give some relief from the pain of this ugly illness should be used."

Dr. Hanna points out that every patient is different, with different symptoms, and different reactions to medications.

Follow WKYC's Kristin Anderson on Twitter: @KristinWKYC


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