A better understanding of Parkinson’s’ disease

New research shows that the identification of less well known early symptoms and prompt diagnosis can improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Above: Dr Tien K Khoo, from Griffith University School of Medicine

Parkinson’s disease is a common condition that has a predilection to the elderly. It is imperative we improve our understanding and treatment of this chronic disease, especially in Australia where the ageing population continues to grow. The latter will require a collaborative effort from patients, carers, doctors, academics and the relevant organisations. 

Better understanding and recognition of the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can lead to earlier diagnosis and better care of the condition, according to the author of a study published last week in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Dr Tien K Khoo, a physician in the school of medicine at Griffith University completed the study while working at Newcastle University in the UK. The study showed that that, while movement problems are the main symptom of Parkinson’s Disease, even early in its course, people frequently experience many non-motor symptoms such as drooling, anxiety and constipation, which are treatable if identified.

“These problems affect a large number of patients and begin sooner than previously thought,” said Dr Khoo. “Earlier diagnosis could lead to earlier treatment and therefore allow patients to have a better quality of life.”

“Often people don’t even mention these symptoms to their doctors, and doctors don’t ask about them, yet many times they can be treated effectively,” he said.

Study findings

In the study, researchers compared 159 people with newly diagnosed Parkinson’s disease to 99 people of similar ages who did not have the disease.

Participants were asked whether they experienced any of the 30 non-motor symptoms screened for, including sexual problems, sleep problems and gastrointestinal problems.

The people with Parkinson’s disease had an average of eight of the non-motor problems, compared to three non-motor symptoms for the people who did not have the disease.

Among the most common symptoms for those with Parkinson’s disease included drooling, urinary urgency, constipation, anxiety and a reduced sense of smell. These were all significantly more common in people with Parkinson’s disease than in those without the disease.

Now at Griffith University in Queensland, Dr Khoo said he is aiming to raise awareness of Parkinson’s Disease in Australia by developing local research to raise understanding of the disease’s mechanisms and improve its current therapies.

“There is still much work to be done in understanding the disease’s presentation in patients and its various clinical manifestations, as well as how it impacts on quality of life and functional wellbeing.

“Parkinson’s disease is a common condition that has a predilection to the elderly. It is imperative we improve our understanding and treatment of this chronic disease, especially in Australia where the ageing population continues to grow. The latter will require a collaborative effort from patients, carers, doctors, academics and the relevant organisations. ”

Dr Khoo said he is engaging with local Parkinson’s charities in a bid to further his work.

Tags: dr-tien-k-khoo, griffith-university, neurology, parkinsons-disease, research,

1 thought on “A better understanding of Parkinson’s’ disease

  1. My husband was diagnosed with PD at about 36yrs old. That is 23yrs ago. Please dont forget the young-onset sufferers. Its not just an old peoples disease, and will impact on the community to a greater degree with leaving work early and financial dependence on the government and all resources at a younger age.

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