What Worsens Parkinson's Disease? What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Susan W. Lee, DO

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive condition, meaning that symptoms naturally worsen over time. Still, some factors may trigger or worsen PD symptoms, such as severe stress, other illnesses, and certain foods. Certain factors may contribute to PD symptoms or affect how quickly the condition progresses.

In addition to effective medical treatment, learning about and managing these triggers can help improve your outcome and quality of life.

Read on for more about what worsens PD, including common triggers and how to reduce their effect.

Stress

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Studio Firma/Stocksy United

According to a 2021 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , different types of stress can worsen PD symptoms.

Acute stress, or the body’s short-term reaction to a perceived threat, may reduce the effect of some PD medications and worsen movement symptoms such as:

  • freezing gait, or difficulty moving the feet forward while walking
  • tremors
  • dyskinesia, or involuntary movements such as jerking or spasms

Researchers suggest that chronic or long-term stress may also:

  • increase the chance of depression and anxiety
  • increase movement symptoms and other symptoms of PD
  • cause PD to progress faster

Stress and PD can contribute to a vicious cycle, as living with a chronic condition like PD can be stressful itself.

However, more research is needed to fully understand the effect of stress on different people with PD.

Treatment and solutions

Managing stress and anxiety may help reduce the effects on your condition. Often, a combination of different approaches works best, which can include Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source :

  • counseling or psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • anti-anxiety medication
  • relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises
  • regular physical activity
  • eating a balanced diet
  • limiting alcohol
  • getting enough good quality sleep
  • getting support from trusted friends or local support groups

Read more about stress, including its health effects and treatment options.

Depression and anxiety

As a 2021 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggests, anxiety and depression in PD may reduce well-being and can affect movement skills and cognitive function.

Like stress, anxiety and depression may also make your symptoms less responsive to treatment.

Treatment and solutions

If you notice symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mood changes, talk with your doctor. They may suggest a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle approaches.

Learn more about depression and anxiety, including their symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Certain medications

Certain medications, supplements, or combinations of medicines may worsen PD symptoms and cause further complications.

The American Parkinson Disease Association recommends that people with AD either avoid taking or talk with a doctor before taking the following medications:

  • antipsychotics
  • antiemetics, medications to treat nausea or vomiting
  • the blood pressure medication methyldopa (Aldomet)
  • the antidepressant amoxapine (Asendin)
  • some medications for dyskinesia, including:
    • deutrabenazine (Austedo)
    • tetrabenazine (Xenazine)
    • valbenazine (Ingrezza)

Keep your doctor updated with a complete list of any medications and supplements you take, including over-the-counter products and products you don’t use every day.

Your doctor may also advise you to avoid other medications if you take rasagiline (Azilect), safinamide (Xadago), or selegiline HCL (Eldepryl, Zelapar).

Treatment and solutions

If a medication is triggering symptoms, your doctor may be able to adjust your dosage or switch you to a new medication.

However, do not stop taking any medication without discussing it with your doctor first.

Certain foods

The foods you eat may affect PD in many ways. For example, researchers suggest that eating a high calorie diet may link to worse PD symptoms.

The following foods may also link to faster PD progression:

  • canned fruits and vegetables
  • fried foods
  • beef
  • ice cream and cheese
  • soda

Experts consider a Western diet a significant risk factor for developing neurodegenerative conditions in the first place, including PD. Western diets tend to be high in saturated and omega-6 fats, added sugars, and salt and low in omega-3s and fiber.

Also, taking the PD medication carbidopa and levodopa (Parcopa, Rytary, Sinemet) with or after meals high in proteins, calories, or fat may delay Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source its absorption or limit its effectiveness.

Treatment and solutions

People with PD may benefit from a Mediterranean diet high in dietary fiber.

Mediterranean diets can vary slightly but generally prioritize the following foods with minimal processing:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • lean meats
  • oily fish

However, nutritional needs and the best calorie intake are very personal. Talk with a doctor or registered dietitian for individualized advice, including how best to take carbidopa and levodopa medication.

Health conditions or changes

Some underlying health conditions or changes in your health may also worsen symptoms, affect your response to medication, or affect Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source your outlook with PD.

For example, you may notice worsening symptoms with:

Treatment and solutions

Contact a doctor promptly if you experience any new, persistent, or changing symptoms.

Only a doctor can tell what is causing your symptoms, and some conditions may require fast treatment. Talking with a doctor can help you develop a treatment plan to manage both PD and your general health.  

Lifestyle approaches may also help reduce the chance of other health changes. Examples include staying hydrated to avoid Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source dehydration and UTIs and keeping up to date with your vaccinations to help prevent infection.

Treatment and improving symptoms

Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, treatments can help relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Treatment options include:

  • medication, such as carbidopa and levodopa
  • deep brain stimulation, which uses electric currents to stimulate brain areas affected by PD
  • supportive therapies, such as:
    • occupational therapy to help with daily life and accessing care

Read more about Parkinson’s disease treatment options.

Summary

Parkinson’s disease (PD) naturally gets worse over time. However, the following factors may trigger or worsen symptoms or speed up how quickly PD progresses:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • certain medications
  • surgery
  • eating an unbalanced diet
  • other health problems, such as infection or dehydration

However, effective treatment and lifestyle approaches can help you avoid or limit the effects of these factors.

Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about PD treatment or notice new or worse symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: Susan W. Lee, DO
Last Review Date: 2024 Feb 8
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.