What to Know About Parkinson’s Disease and COVID-19

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

People living with Parkinson’s disease may be at an increased risk of developing severe illness and have more difficulty recovering from a COVID-19 infection. They are not, however, at an increased risk of developing COVID-19 infection. 

holding patient’s hand for healthcare trust and support

iStockphoto / Getty Images

Parkinson’s Disease and COVID-19 Risk

At this time, people living with Parkinson’s disease do not seem to be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. However, there may be an increased risk of developing more severe disease from a COVID-19 infection, particularly respiratory complications, especially for those in later stages of Parkinson’s disease.

Hospitalization rates for those who get COVID-19 may be higher, and those with Parkinson’s disease may also have a higher instance of death from COVID-19 than the general population. The increased risk of severe disease and death were consistent with the known risk factors shared by the general public which include:

  • Older than 60 years of age
  • Other health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease

These statistics will continue to evolve as more data is found as studies on the impact of COVID-19 and Parkinson’s disease continue. 

Complications of Parkinson’s and COVID-19

It has been found that motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may become worse due to COVID-19 infection.

Other studies showed an increase in symptoms from Parkinson’s disease during the pandemic, even without COVID-19 infection, due to a lack of physical activity and the need for people with Parkinson’s to isolate themselves from others to reduce the risk of infection. Worsening symptoms included:

  • Psychologic distress
  • Rigidity
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Long COVID-19 symptoms may continue well after the initial infection has resolved. COVID-19 infection has been associated with long-term effects on the following body systems:

  • Heart: Heart muscle damage has been found in patients with COVID-19. This could lead to a weakened heart muscle or heart failure.
  • Lungs: Damage to the air sacs in the lungs by pneumonia from the virus can cause difficulty breathing after the infection has resolved.
  • Brain: Some people who had COVID-19 developed strokes, and many report difficulty thinking or concentrating.

One article estimated that at least 10% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 will be considered a “long-hauler”; currently it is unknown which patients are at a higher risk for developing long COVID-19 symptoms.

Many long-haulers initially had mild symptoms, did not require hospitalization, and did not have other comorbidities.

At this time, it is not known if having Parkinson’s disease increases the risk of being a long-hauler. Research is ongoing to help answer these questions.

Parkinson’s Treatments and COVID-19

Medications

Often medications used for Parkinson’s disease are taken at home and do not require visits to a treatment center or physician’s office to receive them. The COVID-19 pandemic may not interrupt the treatment with these medications.

It’s also thought that these medications do not increase the risk of developing COVID-19. There is, however, potential for a shortage of some medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease, due to shutdowns caused by the pandemic.

Stocking Up on Medications

If possible, getting a three-month prescription from your healthcare provider may be appropriate and reduce the risk of running out of medication.

Surgery

Surgical procedures for Parkinson’s disease—such as deep brain stimulation—may have initially been postponed during the initial outbreak of the pandemic.

At that time it was feared that healthcare resources were going to be limited for an unknown amount of time. Currently, it is thought that surgical procedures do not need to be delayed as long as appropriate infection prevention measures are in place.

Exercise

An often prescribed treatment for Parkinson’s disease is exercise, and for many, group exercise classes have been a source of support as well as exercise.

Many group exercise classes have stopped due to the pandemic and the need to reduce the risk of infection. Not only can this decrease someone’s ability to exercise, but it can also cause symptoms of isolation and depression.

There are online groups offering exercise classes virtually. Although this may not fully replace the in-person experience, continuing to exercise can help with symptoms from Parkinson’s Disease. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have Parkinson's?

For most people with Parkinson’s disease, the answer is yes, get the vaccine. However, you should speak with your healthcare provider first.

Currently any risk the vaccine poses does not seem to be worse when given to those with Parkinson’s disease. The vaccines were not studied specifically in people with Parkinson’s, but there is likely enough benefit in reducing the risk of severe illness to suggest getting the vaccine.

Is telehealth available if I don't feel comfortable going into the office?

This is a question best answered by your Parkinson’s disease care team, but for many people, telehealth visits are now available. Though some visits may best be done in person, telehealth offers many benefits and may be an appropriate choice for visits such as those needed for medication refills. 

Would a COVID-19 infection make my Parkinson's disease symptoms worse?

Some studies have shown that any infection can make Parkinson’s symptoms worse, and COVID-19 infection is no different.

An increase in Parkinson’s symptoms may signal that an infection is present, and those with Parkinson’s may have a more difficult time returning to their baseline following COVID-19 infection.

Is it okay to take cough or cold medications if I am diagnosed with COVID-19 and Parkinson's disease?

It is always important to discuss with your Parkinson’s disease provider or pharmacist any prescription or over-the-counter medications you plan to take. Some medications for Parkinson’s disease have interactions with other medications, such as over-the-counter cough and cold medications, and should be avoided.

How to Stay Safe

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 continues to be important. The following recommendations should still be in place, even if vaccinated against the virus:

  • Frequent handwashing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Keeping a social distance of at least 6 feet from those who do not live in your household
  • Wearing a mask that covers the mouth and nose when around others
  • Covering coughs or sneezes in an elbow or tissue
  • Getting a vaccine when it is available, as long as approved by your healthcare provider

A Word From Verywell

There is still a lot that is not known about exactly how COVID-19 affects people with Parkinson’s. However, some studies have shown that those at an advanced age and later stages of Parkinson’s disease may have a higher risk of complications if infected with COVID-19. 

It continues to be very important to follow precautions in preventing illness and reducing your risk by wearing a mask when out in public, social distancing, and washing your hands frequently, even if vaccinated against the virus. 

If you have any concerns about anything related to your Parkinson’s disease and COVID-19, please reach out to your healthcare team for answers. 

The information in this article is current as of the date listed. As new research becomes available, we’ll update this article. For the latest on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bloem BR, Trenkwalder C, Sanchez-Ferro A, et al. COVID-19 vaccination for persons with Parkinson’s disease: light at the end of the tunnel? Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. 2021;11(1):3-8. doi:10.3233/JPD-212573

  2. Zhang Q, Schultz JL, Aldridge GM, Simmering JE, Narayanan NS. Coronavirus disease 2019 case fatality and parkinson’s diseaseMovement Disorders. 2020;35(11):1914-1915. doi:10.1002/mds.28325

  3. American Parkinsons Disease Association. Update on COVID-19 and Parkinson’s disease. Updated October 27, 2020.

  4. van der Heide A, Meinders MJ, Bloem BR, Helmich RC. The impact of the covid-19 pandemic on psychological distress, physical activity, and symptom severity in Parkinson’s diseaseJournal of Parkinson’s Disease. 2020;10(4):1355-1364. doi:10.3233/JPD-202251

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Post-COVID conditions. Updated August 8, 2021.

  6. Rubin R. As their numbers grow, COVID-19 “long haulers” stump expertsJAMA. 2020;324(14):1381. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.17709

  7. American Parkinson Disease Association. Answering your questions about parkinson’s disease and coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Updated April 5, 2021.

  8. Parkinson’s Foundation. COVID-19 FAQ’s. Updated February 10, 2021.

  9. Zhang C, Zhang J, Qiu X, et al. Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease during the covid-19 pandemic: patient perspectiveFront Hum Neurosci. 2021;15. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2021.628105

  10. Parkinson’s Foundation. Exercise.

  11. American Parkinson Disease Association. Medications to be avoided or used with caution in Parkinson’s disease. Updated October 2019.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to protect yourself & others. Updated March 8, 2021.