Hallucinations In Parkinsons Disease: New Insights Into Mechanisms And Treatments
Posted in Clinical Review Article on 13th Jul 2020
Rimona Weil, MBBS, PhD is a Wellcome Clinician Scientist and Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. Her main clinical and research interests are in clinical and neuroimaging predictors of Parkinsons disease and in visual hallucinations in Parkinsons disease and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. She runs specialist clinics for patients with Parkinsons dementia and Dementia with Lewy Bodies and is a collaborator on the Parkinsons UK-funded Trial of Ondansetron as a Parkinsons HAllucinations Treatment: TOP HAT
Suzanne Reeves, MBBS, MRCP , MRCPsych, PhD is Professor of Old Age Psychiatry and Psychopharmacology , Academic MBBS Mental Lead, and an Honorary Consultant in Care Home Liaison . Her main clinical and research interests are to optimise the treatment of delusions and hallucinations in older people, with a primary focus on Alzheimers disease and the Parkinsons disease spectrum. She is the Chief Investigator of the Parkinsons UK-funded Trial of Ondansetron as a Parkinsons HAllucinations Treatment: TOP HAT
Correspondence to: Dr Rimona S Weil, Dementia Research Centre, UCL Institute of Neurology, 8-11 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG.PMID: PMC7116251
Memory Problems And Dementia
Research shows that hallucinations and delusions often happen when someone with Parkinsons also has problems with memory, thinking problems or dementia.
If you experience hallucinations at an early stage of Parkinsons, it could be a sign of another medical condition, such as dementia with Lewy bodies.
How To Talk To Someone With Hallucinations Or Delusions
- It is usually not helpful to argue with someone who is experiencing a hallucination or delusion. Avoid trying to reason. Keep calm and be reassuring.
- You can say you do not see what your loved one is seeing, but some people find it more calming to acknowledge what the person is seeing to reduce stress. For example, if the person sees a cat in the room, it may be best to say, “I will take the cat out” rather than argue that there is no cat.
Page reviewed by Dr. Chauncey Spears, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinsons Foundation Center of Excellence.
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Features Of Parkinson’s Disease Psychosis
PDP typically arises later in the course of the disease, approximately 10 years after initial diagnosis of PD. Symptoms typically arise in the context of retained insight and clear sensorium . Over time, symptoms such as visual hallucinations or delusions tend to recur and progress and insight is lost. Prominent hallucinations early in the course of the disease may suggest Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or a preexisting psychiatric disorder .
Practical Tips For Caregivers Of People With Parkinson’s Psychosis
This 2-page tip sheet has bullet point suggestions for what to do if the person you care for experiences hallucination, delusions or confusion, or becomes agitated or aggressive. In addition, there are tips for how to best be prepared for a doctors appointment when you bring this behavior to the attention of your medical team.
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Psychosis: A Mind Guide To Parkinsons
Can be downloaded as a PDF or ordered the Parkinson’s Foundation online store. This 40-page booklet is a thorough guide to all aspects of Parkinsons psychosis, including symptoms, causes, treatment options, coping strategies for both the family and person experiencing the psychosis, and a chapter on tips for caregivers.
Hallucinations And Delusions In Pd
Hallucinations and delusions are collectively referred to as psychosis.
Visual hallucinations are the most common type of hallucination. In a visual hallucination, someone sees things that are not actually there. There can also be auditory and olfactory hallucinations. Often hallucinations are not alarming to the person experiencing them.
Delusions are when there is an alternative view of reality: an entire irrational story is created. Paranoia is a common type of delusion. Capgras delusions are a specific type of delusion where the person believes that a spouse, adult child, or other family member has been replaced by an imposter.
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What Is Parkinsons Disease Psychosis
Parkinsons disease psychosis is a non-motor symptom of Parkinsons disease that causes patients to experience hallucinations and/or delusions.More than half of all patients with Parkinsons disease eventually develop symptoms over the course of their disease.1
Diagnosing and treating this condition can be complex. The condition relates to both neurology and psychiatry . For this reason, Parkinsons disease psychosis is considered a neuropsychiatric condition, since it deals with mental health symptoms caused by a disease of the nervous system .
Introducing an easier way to track your symptoms and manage your care.
Dont want to download the app? Use the non-mobile version here.
Hallucinations And Rem Sleep Disorders In Parkinson’s Disease
At timestamp 1:58 in this recording of Thrive: HAPS 2020 Caregiver Conference, you will find a one hour talk by neurologist Joohi Jimenez-Shahed, MD. In it she delves into what REM sleep behavior disorder is and is not, and the distinctions between hallucinations, delusions, and delirium. Managment options for RBD and hallucinations are included.
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Motor And Nonmotor Symptoms Of Pd
At its core, PD is characterized by four cardinal symptoms: bradykinesia, rigidity, resting tremor, and postural instability.4 Along with these typical motor symptoms come many nonmotor symptoms with significant associated morbidity and mortality. These include autonomic dysfunction, disorders of sleep and wakefulness, cognitive dysfunction and dementia, mood disorders, and psychosis.5 These nonmotor symptoms of PD are responsible for a significant proportion of hospitalizations, with psychosis reportedly accounting for 24% of hospital admissions in patients with PD.6 This fact signifies the importance of properly managing patients with PD psychosis on both an inpatient and an outpatient basis.6
Section Header Managing Psychosis With Medication
Dont keep hallucinations or delusions a secret from your doctor. Medications — or changes to the medications you take — can help manage Parkinsons psychosis.
Streamlining your meds. The first thing your doctor may want to do is stop or lower your Parkinsons medication dose. They may boost dopamine levels in your brain. That improves motor symptoms but can also cause changes in your emotions or the way you act.
Antipsychotics. These medications balance your brain chemicals. Only a few are considered safe for people with Parkinsons disease. These include quetiapine and clozapine .
Pimavanserin . Another antipsychotic, this first-in-class drug was approved by the FDA in 2016 to treat hallucinations and delusions in Parkinsons disease linked with psychosis.
If you see a doctor who isnt part of your usual care team — say, in the emergency room or an urgent care setting — tell them you have Parkinsons disease and what medications you take for it.
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Diagnosis And Treatment Of Hallucinations
First, your doctor needs to find out what’s causing your hallucinations. They’ll ask about your medical history and do a physical exam. Then they’ll ask about your symptoms.
They may need to do tests to help figure out the problem. For instance, an EEG, or electroencephalogram, checks for unusual patterns of electrical activity in your brain. It could show if your hallucinations are due to seizures.
You might get an MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make pictures of the inside of your body. It can find out if a brain tumor or something else, like an area that’s had a small stroke, could be to blame.
Your doctor will treat the condition that’s causing the hallucinations. This can include things like:
- Medication for schizophrenia or dementias like Alzheimer’s disease
- Antiseizure drugs to treat epilepsy
- Surgery or radiation to treat tumors
- Drugs called triptans, beta-blockers, or anticonvulsants for people with migraines
Your doctor may prescribe pimavanserin . This medicine treats hallucinations and delusions linked to psychosis that affect some people with Parkinsonâs disease.
Sessions with a therapist can also help. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changes in thinking and behavior, helps some people manage their symptoms better.
Parkinson’s Disease Psychosis: The What When Why And How
Psychosis is a psychiatric term used in neurology to refer to a spectrum of abnormalities. Parkinsons disease psychosis is where people experience hallucinations or delusions. Hallucinations is seeing, hearing, or smelling things that dont exist. With tactile hallucinations, one can feel a presence that isnt there. Delusions are believing something that is not true, like that a spouse is being unfaithful or caregivers are stealing. In this one-hour talk, movement disorder specialist Christopher Goetz, MD, focuses on hallucinations and spends a little time on delusions.
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Etiology Of Psychotic Symptoms
PD is characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons with cell bodies residing in the substantia nigra pars compacta with resultant decreased dopamine release in the basal ganglia. The etiology of psychosis is less understood and may involve dysfunctional dopaminergic and serotonergic, and possibly cholinergic, pathways. Indeed, drugs that block dopaminergic receptors can cause extrapyramidal symptoms.
Risk factors for PDP include: exposure to dopaminergic medications, advancing age, increasing impairment in executive function, dementia, increasing severity and duration of PD, comorbid psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety, daytime fatigue, sleep disorders, visual impairment, and polypharmacy . The presence of psychosis in patients with PD is a strong predictor of institutionalization. A study comparing PD patients still living at home with those in nursing care facilities found a 16-fold higher likelihood of hallucinations in the institutionalized group . Another review of a population of PD patients with psychosis found that after 2 years, hallucinations were linked to dementia , nursing home placement or death .
Overview Of Pdp Management
Physical Versus Emotional Control:The intertwining pathophysiology of psychosis and PD through dopaminergic pathways presents healthcare professionals and patients with the unfortunate choice between physical and emotional stability. Dopaminergic agents that treat the symptoms of PD and maintain physical control are predominately associated with the triggering of psychosis symptoms through D2-receptor activation.9,11 This swing to emotional instability could be broadly treated in one of two ways. One option is to stop the anti-PD agent however, this is not feasible for most patients because physical instability and motor symptoms would return. Alternatively, an antipsychotic could be added, but nearly all typical and atypical antipsychotics work via D2-receptor antagonism, potentially tipping the scale toward physical instability. Accordingly, methods used in practice involve dose reduction of offending agents, as tolerated, or the use of an atypical antipsychotic with low D2-receptor affinity.9,11
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Network Changes And Thalamic Drivers
Visual hallucinations have fascinated neurologists and neuroscientists for many years, with their tantalisingly rich and often narrative detail. Due to their transient nature, they have been challenging to investigate, with no clear mechanism found, but many theories have been proposed. Previous models for visual hallucinations considered them as cortical release phenomena, where spontaneous activity occurs in the absence of visual stimuli. Alternative models suggested that hallucinations arise due to incorrect binding of objects into visual scenes.
Advances in computational modelling and network neuroscience have opened up approaches to understanding the brain in new ways. Recent models suggest that Parkinsons hallucinations could arise due to a shift in dominance of difference networks. Specifically, there is thought to be a breakdown in those networks directed to attention and perception, and overactivity of the default mode network ,, a large-scale network that becomes activated during rest, and in day dreaming and mind-wandering. Indeed abnormal levels of default mode network activation are seen in patients with Parkinsons hallucinations.
Adapted from Zarkali A, Adams RA, Psarras S, Leyland LA, Rees G, Weil RS. Increased weighting on prior knowledge in Lewy body-associated visual hallucinations. Brain Commun. 2019 1:fcz007. doi:10.1093/braincomms/fcz007
What Are Hallucinations
Hallucinations are when someone sees, hears or feels something that is not actually there. They are best described as deceptions or tricks played by the brain that involve the bodys senses. Hallucinations are not dreams or nightmares. They happen when the person is awake and can occur at any time of day or night.
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What Is A Hallucination
A hallucination is a perception of something that does not actually exist. This may be visualised, heard, felt, smelled or tasted. Hallucinations are sometimes confused with illusions, which are distortions of a reality rather than something that is purely imagined – as with hallucinations.
Visual hallucinations: In Parkinson’s, hallucinations are most commonly visual and may be in black and white, in colour, still or moving. Often the images involve small animals and children. They may disappear quickly or may last for some time.
Auditory hallucinations: auditory hallucinations are less common. These generally involve hearing voices or other familiar sounds. Auditory hallucinations can also be part of a depressive symptomatology.
Tactile hallucinations: hallucinations may be tactile, that is, you may feel a sensation, like something touching you.
Smell and taste hallucinations: less commonly you may feel that you can taste something you havent eaten, or you may smell something that is not present, such as food cooking or smoke.
Usually hallucinations are not threatening or distressing. If you hallucinate you may be unaware that your perceptions are not real, and sometimes imagined images or sensations can be comforting. But hallucinations can also be distressing and you may feel threatened or frightened and may need reassurance and comfort from those around you.
Knowing The Risk Factors
Family members and caregivers should be aware of risk factors, and like with other PD changes, report them to the doctor. Reversible causes like urinary tract infections, sleep disturbances and medication changes can be addressed, and for most the symptoms will abate. Even over-the-counter drugs and supplements can pose risks for people with PD.
Medication adjustments of antiparkinsonian drugs present a delicate balance to control both motor issues and manage psychological symptoms.1,4 The medical team may swap specific drugs or modify dosages to find the best fit for each person. Older people and those with vision problems are also more likely to develop these kinds of psychoses.
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How Common Is Parkinson’s Disease Psychosis
Between 20-40% of people with Parkinsons report the experience of hallucinations or delusions. When followed as the disease progresses over the years, this number increases. The increase does not mean that the hallucinations are persistent across the majority of patients. However, it is important to note that these statistics sometimes include delirium, in which the symptoms are temporary due to medication that needs to be adjusted or infection that needs to be treated, and isolated minor symptoms or minor hallucinations, including illusions, where instead of seeing things that are not there , people misinterpret things that are really there. These are the most common types of psychosis in people with PD, with different studies placing the occurrence between 25-70% of people with Parkinsons. Typically, if the person with PD only has these minor hallucinations, their doctor will not prescribe an antipsychotic medication, though more significant psychosis that requires medication may develop over time. In one study, 10% of those with minor hallucinations had their symptoms resolved within a few years, while 52% saw their symptoms remain the same and 38% saw their psychosis symptoms get worse.
We recommend that people with Parkinsons not use a single percentage to represent the prevalence of hallucinations and PDP. Parkinsons is a complex disease and as it progresses the percentages and risk of symptoms will change.
Demystifying Hallucinations Night Terrors And Dementia In Parkinsons
This two-hour webinar includes extensive discussion about hallucinations, delusions, illusions and other examples of Parkinsons psychosis in Parkinson’s. Presenters: Rohit Dhall, MD, MSPH and Vergilio Gerald H. Evidente, Director, Movement Disorders Center of Arizona in Scottsdale. Pay particular attention to Dr. Rohit Dhalls description of the causes of PD psychosis as well as treatment options and what to discuss with your movement disorder specialist. Dr. Evidente gives a clear description on differences in PD dementia, Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
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Common Causes Of Hallucinations
Hallucinations most often result from:
- Schizophrenia. More than 70% of people with this illness get visual hallucinations, and 60%-90% hear voices. But some may also smell and taste things that aren’t there.
- Parkinson’s disease. Up to half of people who have this condition sometimes see things that aren’t there.
- Alzheimer’s disease. and other forms of dementia, especially Lewy body dementia. They cause changes in the brain that can bring on hallucinations. It may be more likely to happen when your disease is advanced.
- Migraines. About a third of people with this kind of headache also have an “aura,” a type of visual hallucination. It can look like a multicolored crescent of light.
- Brain tumor. Depending on where it is, it can cause different types of hallucinations. If it’s in an area that has to do with vision, you may see things that aren’t real. You might also see spots or shapes of light. Tumors in some parts of the brain can cause hallucinations of smell and taste.
- Charles Bonnet syndrome. This condition causes people with vision problems like macular degeneration, glaucoma, or cataracts to see things. At first, you may not realize it’s a hallucination, but eventually, you figure out that what you’re seeing isn’t real.
- Epilepsy. The seizures that go along with this disorder can make you more likely to have hallucinations. The type you get depends on which part of your brain the seizure affects.
How Can I Tell If I Am Experiencing Hallucinations
Hallucinations are conscious processes that last a certain amount of time. You can talk about them with someone close to you when they occur.
To know if you are hallucinating, you need to be able to confront reality with your perception. You can do this verification yourself or with the help of someone close to you.
In any case, you have to be prepared to accept that your perception may have been tainted. Fortunately, these hallucinations are not related to Parkinsons disease progressing into a form of dementia. They usually disappear when you change your medications.
Speak to your neurologist. They will be able to do tests to evaluate the causes of your hallucinations and possibly review your medication dosages.
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