Experts writing in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease discuss potentially grave consequences for Parkinson’s disease patients related to social distancing, but also opportunities like new avenues for research and initiatives that may offer positive help and support.
“The pathophysiology of PD puts patients at an increased risk of chronic stress, and a further worsening of this may well be one of the ‘hidden sorrows’ of the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased psychological stress can worsen motor symptoms, while reducing the efficacy of dopaminergic medication,” they write, according to a media release from IOS Press.
They also note that there is some evidence that stress can trigger latent PD, per the release.
Resilience, or the ability to maintain or quickly recover mental health during and after times of adversity, can protect against the detrimental effects of stress. The current crisis offers opportunities to see who copes best under the current circumstances, in order to understand the factors that contribute to resilience in PD patients. Mindfulness-based interventions can reduce stress, and the researchers note that they see opportunities for web-based solutions to help reduce anxiety and depression, and also reduce social isolation.
Another hidden consequence of the pandemic is a marked reduction in physical activities. Recent evidence has shown that physical exercise may reduce symptom progression in PD. Loss of aerobic exercise may lead to a worsening of motor symptoms in PD and may contribute further to psychological stress.
“A hopeful consequence of the current crisis has been the emergence of web-based exercise initiatives such as online singing, exercise, or dance classes for PD patients,” the authors add. “Self-management strategies that reduce stress, increase coping, or increase physical exercise will play an increasing role in the treatment of PD.”
The crisis offers emerging opportunities for PD research, as well. The authors observe that the COVID-19 pandemic is an external stressor that is aligned in time for large groups of people. This provides a unique opportunity for researchers to test how the pandemic influences the course of PD in existing groups of patients enrolled in research studies. It also allows researchers to study what factors increase resilience in PD.
“Deleterious as the current crisis may be, it will hopefully also bring about some long-term positive outcomes for the many people living with PD worldwide,” the researchers observe, in the release.
[Source(s): IOS Press, EurekAlert]