Parkinson’s, much other degenerative diseases such dementia or motor neurone disease, is a devastating diagnosis to receive for both the patient and their family. Currently over 135,000 people have Parkinson’s disease in the UK. The prevalence rate according to the most recent data is the equivalent of 286 people per 100,000 persons. As with other conditions, the key to Parkinson’s is getting diagnosed early so any treatments available can be administered; scientists now believe one of the earlier signs of Parkinson’s can be found in the voice.
Researchers from the University of Arizona have found a link between the gene in the body that causes Parkinson’s and vocal changes.
The research suggests a specific gene associated with Parkinson’s could be behind vocal changes associated with the condition; Parkinson’s sufferers normally develop a soft monotonous voice.
The hope is the establishment of this link will lead to earlier diagnoses and the beginning of treatment to stem the progress of the disease.
Speaking of the researcher Professor Julie Miller said: “We have this big gap here – we don’t know how this disease impacts the brain regions for vocal production, and this is really an opportunity to intervene early and come up with better treatments.”
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In common with other neurodegenerative conditions such as motor neurone disease and dementia, there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease.
However, unlike the other diseases, there are some treatments the NHS says can “help relieve the symptoms and maintain quality of life” such as supportive therapies, medication, and surgery.
Early symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
• Slowness of movement
• Muscle stiffness.
While these are the main symptoms of Parkinson’s the NHS adds “there can be causes other than Parkinson’s disease”.
Discovering which cell causes Parkinson’s is a breakthrough moment for the scientific community that can lead to a greater understanding of how the disease is caused.
Furthermore, if scientists can work out how to stop these cells dying this, in turn, could lead to a potential cure for the condition.
Although it is possible to live with Parkinson’s for a time and to alleviate its symptoms, for all it is a losing battle.
In a few years the hope is the tide of the battle could turn in the patient’s favour.