, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 76-82

Symptoms of autonomic failure in Parkinson’s disease: prevalence and impact on daily life

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Frequency and clinical importance of autonomic failure in idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (PD) are discussed controversially. 141 patients with PD and 50 healthy age-matched control subjects were interviewed for symptoms of autonomic failure and their influence on daily life using a questionnaire. In PD patients, the prevalence of orthostatic dizziness, bladder dysfunction, erectile dysfunction and hyperhidrosis was significantly higher compared with controls. About 50% of PD patients rated the impact of the symptoms of autonomic failure on their daily lives as “a lot” or “very much” due to orthostatic dizziness, bladder dysfunction and constipation, which were more statistically significant than in age-matched controls. Prevalence and number of autonomic symptoms were not correlated with duration and severity of PD. In 32% of patients, impaired cardiovascular regulation was found by standardized cardiovascular function tests. If testing showed abnormal findings, orthostatic dizziness, bladder dysfunction, constipation and erectile dysfunction were significantly more frequent than in patients with normal regulation, but the impact on daily life due to these symptoms differed significantly only for bladder dysfunction between groups. It is concluded that autonomic failure is a clinically relevant, pervasive problem in PD and compromise patients’ daily life activities in all stages of the disease. This underlines the necessity to adequately search for and treat these non-dopaminergic symptoms during the whole course of the disease.