Diagnosing and Treating Parkinson's
Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease can be difficult, even for experienced clinicians. Very early signs can be dismissed or attributed to normal aging and some symptoms are similar to those of other, more benign, diseases.
The most reliable method of diagnosis currently available is DaTscan, a brain imaging technique. This process highlights levels of dopamine in the brain. It is a deficiency of dopamine which causes common Parkinson’s symptoms such as tremors, bradykinesia and rigidity. DaTscan is highly effective in distinguishing between Parkinson’s and other impairments such as Essential Tremor. However, it is extremely expensive and available to patients only through a GP referral. For patients exhibiting atypical symptoms, it may not be until the disease advances and causes more recognisable symptoms that a referral is made. Parkinson’s specialists, who are also able to make an accurate clinical diagnosis, are also expensive and in short supply, even in some medically-advanced countries, limiting referral options for GPs.
It is not known how many people worldwide are currently living with Parkinson’s. What is clear is that even in medically-advanced countries, access to early and effective diagnosis is at far lower than recommended levels. In many parts of the world there is no access to specialists at all, and an estimated 50% of Parkinson’s cases go undiagnosed.
There is a rapidly growing number of drug treatments for Parkinson's which help to control symptoms and slow progression of the disease. Many latest developments are in the area of neuroprotective drug therapies which have the potential to prevent deterioration. There are over 1200 drug trials currently underway for new Parkinson's medication.
As well as medication there are many forms of physical therapy and related tools, including simulation gaming to stimulate muscle responses and technology aids.
With the number of effective drug and physical therapies set to expand rapidly in the coming years, what is needed are reliable and affordable methods for early diagnosis, along with methods to evaluate the efficacy of new drug therapies. This will enable Parkinson's sufferers to get maximum benefit from developments.
The sensory pen for objective patient assessment paves the way for improved treatment by increasing the chances of accurate early diagnosis and an objective measure for the pharmaceutical industry to quantify the effictiveness of new drug therapies.