COVID-19 overview for PD community -from ADPA

Many people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may be wondering if this virus will affect them any differently because they have Parkinson’s disease.

The answer is not clear cut because we currently have limited information. There have been so few cases in the US that most doctors will likely not have any specific experience in treating PD patents with COVID-19. The best we can do at this time is extrapolate from experiences of

  • people with PD and other viral respiratory illnesses
  • people with other chronic diseases and COVID-19

PD and other viral respiratory illnesses

PD motor and non-motor symptoms can be exacerbated by any medical illness, including a viral respiratory illness like COVID-19. This means that in addition to the respiratory symptoms of the virus, people with PD may feel that they are slower and stiffer and that their medications don’t seem to be working as well. Hallucinations may start in a person who never experienced that symptom before. Recovery from the illness can be more drawn out. It would be reasonable to assume that someone with PD who contracts COVID-19 could experience these complications as well.

Because of these reasons, people with PD are always strongly encouraged to protect themselves from infection as much as possible. Vaccines such as the flu vaccine are strongly recommended. (COVID-19 does not yet have a vaccine because it is so new).

Other chronic diseases and COVID-19

There appears to be a wide range of clinical reactions to COVID-19 infection – from very mild to severe. Most people who contract the virus will recover fully. Older adults as well as people with underlying medical problems, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, are more susceptible to COVID-19 (which is in line with what is seen with many other infections). The age at which susceptibility begins to increase is evolving as we learn more about the disease. Regardless, most people with PD will fit into the demographic of “older adults”.

People with PD may be wondering if PD is an underlying medical problem that increases his or her risk beyond that of other people of the same age.  This is a difficult question to answer since PD is such a variable illness and each person is different. If you have mild PD and are healthy and fit otherwise, you may not have an increased risk from COVID-19. Practically however, we do not have enough clinical data yet to be sure of that.

People with more moderate PD may start to experience decreased mobility, with more risk of falls. As PD advances it can cause additional problems including swallowing difficulties, urinary dysfunction and weight loss. All of these elements can contribute to general frailty and increased risk of infection, including increased risk from COVID-19.

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