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Doctors may be missing depression in Parkinson's patients

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Updated: 8/15 10:35 pm
By Erika Edwards
NBC News

A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease can leave patients reeling. The neuro-degenerative disorder causes involuntary muscle movements, and there's no cure.

Now a new study confirms depression is more common among those newly diagnosed with Parkinson's.

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"If you're visiting with someone newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, it's not uncommon that you might find in their history that they've also experienced episodes of depression," says Dr. David Charles of Vanderbilt University.

Robin Williams had been vocal about his battle with depression, but there is no way to know whether his diagnosis of Parkinson's played any role in his suicide.

Although clinical depression and Parkinson's disease are two distinct medical conditions, experts say suffering from both may worsen symptoms.

"In the case of Parkinson's, we know that there is a loss of cells in areas of the brain that make dopamine. And the link between Parkinson's and depression is not fully understood from a pathologic standpoint, however we do know that they're clearly linked," Dr. Charles says.

Linked, but it's important to note neither condition causes the other.

There are effective medications to control both Parkinson's disease and depression.
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