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Parkinson's Disease

Many chronic or progressive diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, put you at risk for developing infections. As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it can become increasingly difficult to swallow food and drink without choking. You may aspirate the food or drink, which means it goes into the lungs instead of your stomach. When you aspirate, you can develop pneumonia, an infection that can trigger sepsis.

Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency that requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly), and/or amputations.

Falls and traumas

People with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease are at risk of falling and injuring their skin. These injuries can become infected. Falls can also cause fractures, such as a broken hip. If a fracture breaks through the skin (an open fracture) or needs surgery for the bone to be set, again, infection is possible.

Healthcare-acquired infections

When you have a chronic or progressive illness, healthcare facility admissions aren’t unusual. This puts you at risk for developing healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs), most frequently infections such as MRSA and C. difficile.

There are many ways someone with a chronic or progressive can develop an infection, so it’s important to always be aware of the possibility, and to watch for the signs and symptoms of sepsis. Quick recognition and treatment is the key to survival.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects how your muscles move. In the beginning stages, it can be easy to miss the early signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The most common ones include:

  • Tremors, usually starting with the fingers or hand
  • A noticeable change in handwriting
  • Walking is slower, movement is stiffer
  • Stiff, rigid muscles
  • Loss of balance
  • Stooped posture
  • Quieter voice, difficulty speaking
  • Stiff, mask-like face
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss

Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is often diagnosed by the typical signs and symptoms related to the disease. There are no specific tests for Parkinson’s disease. However, your doctor may send you for other tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other imaging tests to rule out any other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

Causes of Parkinson’s disease

It’s not yet known what causes Parkinson’s disease, but researchers believe that some people may be at higher risk of developing the disease. They include people who have:

  • A family history of Parkinson’s disease
  • Been exposed to toxins, such as some insecticides
  • Experienced head trauma

Treating Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is not curable. Treatments focus on relieving symptoms as much as possible and allowing you to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

There are different types of drugs, such as levodopa/carbidopa (Sinemet), ropinirole (Requip), and amantadine (Symmetrel), which may help relieve or lessen tremors and make it easier to control muscle movement.

There also has been some success with deep brain stimulation for some patients.

If you suspect sepsis, call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital and tell your medical professional, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.” 

Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.

Suggested Citation: Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis and Parkinson’s Disease. 2022. https://www.sepsis.org/sepsisand/parkinsons-disease/

Updated May 3, 2022.

Parkinson’s Disease

Many chronic or progressive diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, put you at risk for developing infections. As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it can become increasingly difficult to swallow food and drink without choking. You may aspirate the food or drink, which means it goes into the lungs instead of your stomach. When you aspirate, you can develop pneumonia, an infection that can trigger sepsis.