New Tool Aims to Improve Parkinson's Diagnosis

A group of Parkinson’s disease (PD) experts have developed a new tool that they hope will mark a significant advancement in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, especially in its early stages. 

Currently, no objective test for PD exists. A diagnosis of PD can only be given through an analysis of medical history and a neurological examination by a clinician with expertise in movement disorders. As the symptoms of PD often resemble those of other neurological disorders, the rate of misdiagnosis can be as high as 25 percent.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder associated with the death of specific brain cells, including cells that control movement, mood, sleep, and cognition. Symptoms may include tremors, slowness of movement, stiffness or rigidity, sleep disorders, loss of the sense of smell, depression, and cognitive dysfunction.

The disease can appear in people as young as their thirties, but more commonly appear around the age of 60. It is estimated that the disease touches more than one in 50 people in this age group.

With the aim of improving and broadening diagnosis and treatment of the disease, movement disorder experts from around the world shared their knowledge to create the most comprehensive diagnostic criteria ever developed for the disease.

“In light of the latest scientific insights and technological advances, we were able to establish a new list of criteria based on expert clinical diagnosis,” said Dr. Ron Postuma, co-chair of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) task force.

“Our aim was to create a benchmark that will systematize the diagnostic process, make it reproducible across centers and that will enable a wider range of non PD-specialized clinicians to provide patients with an accurate diagnosis.”

Dr. Daniela Berg, chair of the MDS task force and associate professor at the University of Tübingen, Germany, 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.”

The researchers are 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,” Postuma said. “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 findings are published in the journal Movement Disorders.

Source: McGill University Health Center

Woman with parkinson’s disease photo by shutterstock.