Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurological condition related to the death of specific brain cells, including cells that control movement, mood, sleep and cognition. Symptoms of the disease include tremors, slowness of movement, stiffness or rigidity, sleep disorders, loss of the sense of smell, depression, and cognitive dysfunction. It can appear in people as young as their thirties, but more commonly appear around the age of 60 years. It is estimated that the disease touches more than one in 50 people in this age group.
Currently, diagnosis of PD can only be established through an analysis of medical history and a neurological examination by a clinician with expertise in movement disorders. There is no objective test for the disease. As the symptoms of PD often resemble those of other neurological disorders, the rate of misdiagnosis can be as high as 25%, which causes distress in patients.
A group of researchers working under the umbrella of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS), have developed a new tool for healthcare professionals that will help in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease, especially in its early stages. The results of their study could also have a major impact on the quality of research on Parkinson's disease.
Dr. Daniela Berg, Chair of the MDS task force, said, "These criteria accent how Parkinson's disease is much more than a simple motor disorder, now incorporating motor and non-motor symptoms as well as the genetic component in some forms of PD."
Dr. Postuma said, "The research team is proposing a new stage classification of the disorder with the aim of focusing attention on the early stages of PD. With this new classification our goal is to set up a research agenda that will help identify the features that signal the presence of the disease early on. Our hope is that, as research advances, our understanding of the mechanisms at play in the disorder will enable us to develop therapies and treatments that can be administered early in this process, eventually slowing or stopping the progression of PD altogether."
The study is published in the Movement Disorders.