Early Signs of Parkinson's Disease Can Appear 5 to 10 Years Before Diagnosis

Using electronic primary health care records, the team looked at over a million people living in East London between 1990 and 2018 to explore early symptoms and risk factors for Parkinson’s.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London found that common symptoms linked with Parkinson’s, such as tremor and memory problems, can appear up to 10 and 5 years before diagnosis, respectively. During their investigation, the researchers additionally uncovered 2 new early features of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and hearing loss, and were able to replicate these findings using additional data from the UK Biobank.

Using electronic primary health care records, the team looked at over a million people living in East London between 1990 and 2018 to explore early symptoms and risk factors for Parkinson’s.

Previous studies about Parkinson’s have focused on affluent white populations, with patients from minority ethnic groups and those who live in areas of high social deprivation largely under-represented in Parkinson’s research to date. This recent study provides more evidence of risk factors and early signs of Parkinson’s, using data from urban populations.

Hypertension and type 2 diabetes were associated with increased odds of developing Parkinson’s, in addition to an observation of stronger connections between memory complaints within this population than previously described in East London.

“This is the first study focusing on the pre-diagnostic phase of Parkinson’s in such a diverse population with high socioeconomic deprivation but universal access to health care,” said lead study author Cristina Simonet, PhD, in a press release. “People from minority ethnic groups and deprived areas have largely been under-represented in Parkinson’s research up till now, but to allow us to get a full picture of the condition we need to ensure research is inclusive and represents all those affected.”

Study co-author Alastair Noyce, PhD, added that people see their GPs with symptoms but often don’t get a diagnosis until 5 to 10 years after, and diagnosing Parkinson’s earlier can provide a real opportunity to intervene early and offer treatments that could improve quality of life for patients.

“This study confirms that many of the symptoms and early features of Parkinson’s can occur long before a diagnosis,” Noyce said in a press release. “Through our ongoing PREDICT-PD research, we’re hoping to identify people at high risk of Parkinson’s even before obvious symptoms appear – which means that we could do more than just improve quality of life for patients, and perhaps be in the position to slow down or cure Parkinson’s in the future.”

REFERENCE

New early signs of Parkinson’s uncovered in most diverse UK study to date. Queen Mary University of London. March 7, 2022. Accessed March 9, 2022. https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/2022/smd/new-early-signs-of-parkinsons-uncovered-in-most-diverse-uk-study-to-date--.html#

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