A projection of a condition’s clinical course and outcome. The prognosis for Parkinson’s disease is both certain and highly variable. Parkinson’s disease is chronic and progressive, so what is certain is that its symptoms will worsen over time. But the course of disease that is manifested in each individual is highly variable, as there is no predictable pattern to the progression and severity of symptoms. As well, many factors influence Parkinson’s course, including lifestyle, other health conditions, attitude, expectations, and outlook. This variation is both a drawback and an advantage; the person can live life as usual yet knows that circumstances can suddenly and unexpectedly change.
Diagnosis determining that a disease or condition exists and prognosis are the cornerstones of medical assessment. In many medical conditions, each is well defined. Laboratory tests establish positive evidence of infections; X rays and imaging studies such as computed tomography (ct) scan show fractures. There are parameters for the effectiveness of treatment that make prognosis fairly certain. Strep throat typically clears up after two weeks on antibiotics; a broken wrist or arm heals after six weeks in a cast. Although even under the best of circumstances prognosis is a process of educated guessing predicated on the statistics of what happens with most people most of the time, it is far more precise in situations such as these. In complex, and particularly chronic, conditions, prognosis becomes a great challenge. Most people want definitive answers about such matters, but for Parkinson’s those answers are in short supply. Parkinson’s disease is a continuum with no obvious beginning, no clear path, and no foreseeable finish.
For the person with Parkinson’s, prognosis is a balance between taking each day as it comes and anticipating future care needs. anti-parkinson’s medications hold symptoms at bay for many years in most people, allowing near-normal function. Yet the inevitable deterioration that continues in the brain establishes the reality that the disease demands careful planning and management for optimal quality of life.