A range of features can be identified in people several years before they are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological condition that impairs a person’s control of their body movements. Symptoms include shaking, muscle stiffness, slowness of movement and freezing.

It’s estimated that around 80,000 Australians are living with Parkinson’s disease and it most commonly affects older people.

As with most diseases, the earlier that treatment starts, the better the outcome therefore it’s beneficial to have strategies in place to identify prediagnostic features of disease even before a diagnosis is made.

Researchers looked at the link between various prediagnostic factors and a subsequent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease to identify how long before a diagnosis symptoms may be presenting.

The study involved people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and a similar demographic who did not have the disease. Participants were assessed after two years, five years and ten years.

They were assessed for various prediagnostic features including anxiety and depression, fatigue, low blood pressure, constipation, urinary and erectile dysfunction, shoulder pain and stiffness, rigidity and tremor.

The most common prediagnostic symptom found in people within two years prior to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease was tremor.

Other common symptoms up to ten years prior to a diagnosis included balance impairment, shoulder pain or stiffness, depression, anxiety, memory problems, constipation, low blood pressure and erectile and urinary dysfunction.

These prediagnostic symptoms were more prevalent in people eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s compared to their peers who did not have Parkinson’s.

Implications

This research shows that people who go on to develop Parkinson’s disease often present with indicative symptoms up to ten years prior to the diagnosis.

There may be a long prediagnostic phase preceding Parkinson’s disease in which symptoms can be identified and treatment can potentially commence.

The researchers highlight the need to weigh up the pros and cons of early screening and early treatment on a case by case basis. If you have a family history of Parkinson’s disease or are at increased risk talk to your doctor to see what best suits your circumstances.

Last Reviewed: 20/08/2019

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

Schrag, A et al. Prediagnostic presentations of Parkinson’s disease in primary care: a case-control study. Lancet Neurol 2014; 14: 57 – 64 Published Online November 27, 2014