If you’re not moving your bowels every day, or are increasingly straining, this can be an early sign of Parkinson’s. The disease alters the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls processes like digestion and bowel function. Constipation on its own isn’t unusual, but if you’re experiencing other symptoms like difficulty sleeping and trouble moving or walking, talk to your doctor.
Much has been made of the link between the late comedian Robin Williams’ Parkinson’s diagnosis and ongoing battle with depression. Sometimes patients can develop depression after learning they have Parkinson’s, but it’s also common for people to be depressed years before they start to exhibit physical symptoms, says Michele Tagliati, MD, director of the Movement Disorders Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California. “Parkinson’s is characterized as a movement disorder because of a lack of dopamine in the brain, but there are also low levels of other neurotransmitters like serotonin, which are intimately related to depression,” he says. Parkinson’s patients who are depressed tend to feel apathetic and generally disinterested in things they used to enjoy, compared to feeling intensely sad or helpless, as is common in primary depression. “They lose pleasure in the simple things of life, like waking up in the morning and buying the paper,” says Dr. Tagliati. Treatment for depression includes counseling, antidepressant medication, and in the most extreme cases, electric shock therapy.