The latest research studies indicate that millions of people who suffer from chronic allergies to pets, dust and spores are three times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease later in life.
A study by US scientists, from the Mayo Clinic has shown that people who suffer from allergic rhinitis, which is a condition that causes symptoms of having a 'permanent cold', are probably at a greater risk of developing the degenerative neurological condition of Parkinson's. It was explained that their research had looked into the possible links between conditions that cause inflammation and the breakdown of brain cells, and had found a marked increase in cell death in rhinitis sufferers.
It was explained that previous studies had shown that people who were regular users of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, were at reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease. The researchers explained that those findings had prompted them to look deeper into the links between diseases that are characterized by inflammation and Parkinson's. Conducting their study on 196 people who developed Parkinson's disease, they matched with people of similar age and gender who did not develop Parkinson's. The study was conducted in Olmsted County, Minnesota, over a 20-year period.
The researchers explained that they examined the groups so as to determine if those people who developed Parkinson's disease had more inflammatory diseases. They found that those with allergic rhinitis were 2.9 times more likely to develop Parkinson's, but at the same time could not find any such similar association between inflammatory diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anaemia or vitiligo and Parkinson's disease.
Based on their findings the researchers were of the opinion that they probably have not have found significant links between these diseases and Parkinson's disease due to the relatively small group of patients in the population who have these diseases, and therefore a very small number in their population sample study. They also mentioned that they did not find the same association with Parkinson's disease in patients with asthma as they discovered in those with allergic rhinitis.
Dr. James Bower, M.D., Mayo Clinic neurologist and lead study investigator explained that this study had not examined the patient's allergy types or their onset of allergies. They were of the opinion that a general tendency toward inflammation could be the key link between the diseases.
Dr. Bower said, "People with allergic rhinitis mount an immune response with their allergies, so they may be more likely to mount an immune response in the brain as well, which would produce inflammation. The inflammation produced may release certain chemicals in the brain and inadvertently kill brain cells, as we see in Parkinson's."
Dr. Bower further explained that this study does not prove that allergies cause Parkinson's disease but instead, it just point to a probable association between the two diseases. Advising that allergy patients can do little to reduce the potential risk for Parkinson's, he mentioned, "I wouldn't worry if you have allergies, treat the allergy symptoms you have to alleviate them at the time. At this point, we have no good evidence that this treatment will protect you from possibly developing Parkinson's disease later."
Dr. Bower and his colleagues hope, that the clues that they had obtained from their study may give scientists a strong indication about inflammation's role in Parkinson's disease. Dr. Bower further said, "This is exciting, because we may be able to develop medications to block the inflammation."
Parkinson's is a disease condition that affects nerve cells of the brain that controls muscle movement. People suffering from Parkinson's disease often experience trembling, muscle rigidity, difficulty walking, and problems with balance and coordination. These symptoms generally develop after age 50, though it could also affect a small percentage of younger people.