How long can someone live with Parkinson's disease?


Q: My father, 64, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. How long can a person live after diagnosis?

A: This is a very specific question. Each individual is different and this applies to the life expectancy as well.

In most cases Parkinson's Disease (PD) is a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Patients with PD have somewhat shorter life span compared with healthy individuals that belong to the same age group.

On average, patients with PD live between 10 to 20 years after the diagnosis. Patients should however put these numbers in the perspective of their current age.

There is no cure for Parkinson's disease; however many patients are only mildly affected and need no treatment for several years after the initial diagnosis.

In some people the disease progresses more quickly than in others. As the disease progresses, the shaking, or tremor, which affects the majority of PD patients may begin to interfere with daily activities.

PD is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. Ultimately, the drugs (for example, Sinemet) or surgery (like deep brain stimulation) help with some of the symptoms (like slowness of movement, rigidity, or tremor) but not much can be done to slow the progression of the disease.

The life expectancy in PD has improved over the past decades with advances in the medical and surgical management of the disease as well as with the development of a comprehensive approach to the patients' care.

Dr. Aleksandar Videnovic is a Neurologist, specializing in Parkinson's disease and movement disorders. Read his full biography

Dr. Aleksandar Videnovic

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Dr. Videnovic cares for patients with Parkinson’s disease and various movement disorders. He is a principal investigator and co-investigator on several clinical trials in the field of Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders. He is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Northwest University Feinberg School of Medicine.

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A close friend and colleague of mine, sculptor Robin Fredenthal, of Philadelphia, just past away at age 69. He had lived with Parkinson's Disease for 45 years (Yes, he started manifesting symptoms when he was 24, one of the youngest victims of Parkinson's on record.). Parkinson's did not kill Robin. Most importantly, Robin managed to live an exceptionally productive life for a very long time.
My mother has had Parkinsons for about 15 years and increasing dementia for half those years. She's in a nursing home now, in bed or a wheelchair, very frail, confused and barely able to speak but, over the years, she's broken both hips and had a number of strokes so she has other health issues on top of the Parkinsons. I really didn't think she'd get this far. Last week she moved to a larger private room and I put a bird feeder outside her window which gives her much pleasure. She has little quality of life now and we just go one day at a time..
As Parkinson’s progresses, the patient sometimes experiences dementia, including memory difficulties. This makes it particularly important for the person to have a trustworthy, qualified caregiver with him or her at all times. Home care services provide a professional level of supervision and care, while also allowing the Parkinson’s patient to experience the benefits of being around loved ones and maintaining a reasonable level of independence.