Parkinson’s disease is a common condition particularly affecting older people. Falls are a very frequent complication of the disease affecting 60% of people with Parkinson’s every year. Having a fall can be devastating, resulting in broken bones, injuries and hospital admission. In addition, people lose confidence in their walking and ability to get out and about so can become more isolated and anxious. As the population ages, the number of people living with Parkinson’s disease and the occurrence of complications will increase.
The loss of the chemical dopamine in the brain causes walking in Parkinson’s to become slower, unsteady and irregular. People with the condition are therefore at a very high risk of falling. To some extent, people can compensate for these changes by paying more attention to their walking. However, Parkinson’s also diminishes memory and thinking ability. This decreases people’s ability to pay attention to their walking, especially when doing something at the same time.
Cholinesterase Inhibitors are drugs that are currently used to treat people with memory problems in Parkinson’s and other conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. The effect of these drugs on falls in Parkinson’s has been tested in 3 small trials showing that treatment has the potential to almost halve the number of falls.