ADHD and Parkinson's

By Lia Stannard ; Updated August 14, 2017

In the United States, at least 500,000 people have Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder that affects movement, according to 2010 information from the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Another disorder that has neurological origins is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. MedlinePlus notes that rate of ADHD among school-age children ranges between 3 and 5 percent, with a higher diagnosis in boys.


Parkinson's disease patients have a significant decrease in their amount of dopamine. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that neurons that produce dopamine become destroyed, specifically in the area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Without sufficient amount of dopamine, signals sent between the substantia nigra and the corpus striatum become affected, resulting in movement problems. MedlinePlus points out that ADHD patients may also have differences in dopamine, as well as serotonin and epinephrine.


Three types of symptoms may occur in ADHD patients: hyperactivity, inattention and impulsiveness. Patients who exhibit hyperactive and impulsive symptoms may have trouble with behavioral issues such as a lack of emotional restraint, constant motion, inability to stay still while seated and interruption of others. With inattention, patients may have problems completing a task, following instructions, staying organized and processing information. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke lists four major symptoms for Parkinson's disease: impaired balance, tremors, rigidity and bradykinesia, a condition in which patients have a slowing of movement and a loss of the automatic movement. Parkinson's disease patients may also have a shuffling gait, a lack of expression on their faces, muscle aches and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms include constipation, drooling, anxiety, depression and memory loss.

Time Frame

Parkinson's disease and ADHD start during different times in a patient's life. For example, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that most patients develop Parkinson's disease by age 60, though 5 to 10 percent of people develop the disorder before age 50. Five stages of Parkinson's disease exist, which may take 20 or more years to progress through. Patients in stage one Parkinson's disease have symptoms only on one side of the body, while patients in stage five Parkinson's disease are either confined to a wheelchair or bed. With ADHD, patients begin showing signs between the ages of 3 and 6, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Some ADHD patients may continue to have the symptoms when they reach adolescence and adulthood.


ADHD patients may use medication, therapy or a combination of the two to treat their symptoms. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that doctors commonly use a stimulant medication, such as amphetamine, to treat ADHD. The different types of therapy, such as behavioral therapy, teach patients how to monitor their behavior, which are skills they can continue to use in adulthood. If the symptoms of ADHD interfere with schoolwork, patients may qualify for special education. MedlinePlus explains that one medication for Parkinson's disease is levodopa, which is a precursor to dopamine, with a molecule small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier. Parkinson's disease patients may also take carbidopa with levodopa to prevent its conversion to dopamine outside the brain, as dopamine is too large to cross the blood-brain barrier. For severe Parkinson's disease, patients may undergo a surgical treatment such as deep brain stimulation.


Both Parkinson's disease and ADHD patients may develop some complications. For example, MedlinePlus notes that Parkinson's disease patients may have difficulty with their daily activities, swallowing or eating, may become injured when they fall or develop pneumonia if they breathe in their saliva. Children with ADHD may have problems with academics and social interaction. The MayoClinic.com notes that ADHD patients have a higher risk of accidents, delinquent behavior and alcohol or drug abuse.

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