It sounds almost too good to be true. A cheap and easy to use eye test could detect Parkinson’s before symptoms appear. Even better: early detection could improve the treatment.
Parkinson’s disease is the world’s second most common neurodegenerative disease. 1 in 500 people are suffering from it. Main symptoms are muscle stiffness, shacking of the hands and slowness of movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Very often the changes in movement are very discreet and therefore an early diagnosis is often difficult. Read more:
In Parkinson’s disease, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die. These certain nerve cells are responsible for the design, the development and the realization of movements. The loss of neurons results in a decreased dopamine level in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger between nerve cells.
The New Eye Test
Researchers at the University College London, Institute of Ophthalmology developed a new test to detect changes in the retina which appear before Parkinson symptoms become evident. The study was published journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications.
Why it is important to detect Parkinson’s early? This depends on the pathophysiology of the disease. In Parkinson’s certain nerve cells in the brain die. But the symptoms only appear if more than 70% of these cells are destroyed. Being able to detect the disease earlier makes it possible to start treatments to prevent or delay the outbreak. Moreover it would be possible to monitor how patients respond to treatment.
“These tests mean we might be able to intervene much earlier and more effectively treat people with this devastating condition.”
“This is potentially a revolutionary breakthrough in the early diagnosis and treatment of one of the world’s most debilitating diseases,” said Professor Francesca Cordeiro, author of the study.
“These discoveries have the potential to limit and perhaps eliminate the suffering of thousands of patients if we are able to diagnose early and to treat with this new formulation,” said first author Dr Eduardo Normando, author of the study.
However, the study was an animal study, so it is still a long way to go before it’s available on the market.