Diagnosis and Treatment Hope for Parkinson's Disease
Wednesday 21 March 2018
Diagnosis and treatment hope for Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease affects around one in 500 people. It is a condition that causes problems in the brain, and it gets worse over time. Although there is currently no cure for the disease, there have been recent scientific developments that offer hope for new treatments and more effective diagnosis.
Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain, which means there is less of the chemical dopamine in the brain. It is not known why people get Parkinson’s, but it is thought to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors such as toxins.
There are three main symptoms of Parkinson’s: involuntary shaking of the body; slow or uncoordinated movements; and stiff or inflexible muscles. Other symptoms that people with the condition can get include depression, lack of balance, and sleeping and memory problems.
Although the disease cannot currently be cured, there are treatments available that can reduce symptoms, including medication and physiotherapy. The condition puts strain on the body, which can mean people with Parkinson’s are more susceptible to infections, which can be life-threatening.
There is currently no conclusive test to confirm that someone has Parkinson’s disease. Doctors will simply look at the symptoms someone has in order to diagnose the condition. This can be problematic as in the early stages of the disease, the symptoms are usually very mild.
There is however hope that more effective diagnosis techniques could be on the horizon. A recent study has found that people with Parkinson’s disease have five times more of a particular protein molecule than people without the condition. Levels of this protein molecule can be found by analysing a person’s tears.
It is hoped that the discovery could lead to a simple test for the disease, which could in turn lead to earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, even when a person doesn’t have any of the more obvious symptoms.
In another recent scientific development, researchers have found that excessive calcium levels in the brain may lead to the formation of toxic clusters that cause the nerve cell loss that is associated with Parkinson’s disease. It was previously unknown why this process happens.
The researchers from the University of Cambridge hope that the findings could lead to the development of new treatments for the disease, such as calcium blockers, which are currently used to treat heart disease.
Increase in incidence
These new developments in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease have come at a good time, as experts have recently predicted that more and more people will have the disease in the future.
Between 1990 and 2015, the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease more than doubled to nearly 7 million. A recent study has predicted that by 2040 there will be over 14 million people around the world with the condition.
The authors of this study on the rise in prevalence have called for more work to be done on improving prevention and treatment of the disease. They have called for more research into the environmental, genetic and behavioural causes of Parkinson’s, and increases in funding for research into new and effective treatments.
World Parkinson’s Day is on 11 April – a date chosen as it is the birthday of James Parkinson, whose 1817 essay on the condition established Parkinson’s as an internationally recognised condition.
The day will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the condition.
Dr Paul Hart is a neurological specialist at Ashtead Hospital and can help advise those suffering with Parkinson's Disease. Please call 01372 221 441 if you would like to book an appointment with him.