Researchers Say Arm Swing Can Be Early Sign of Parkinson’s Disease
Q. My sister and I are worried that my 75-year-old father might have to deal with Parkinson’s disease because both of his older brothers developed it before they reached 80. Since we live in another city and he lives alone, I’m not sure that we see him enough to catch Parkinson’s in the earliest stages. Suggestions?
First, you and your sister should persuade your father that early detection is important because treatments can slow Parkinson’s progression. And continuing research, including a recent Penn State study, offers hope for additional early detection techniques.
People with Parkinson’s disease swing their arms asymmetrically – one arm swings less than the other – when walking. This unusual movement is easily detected early. As a result, drugs and other interventions may help slow the disease, Penn State researchers noted.
“Scientists have known for some time that people with Parkinson’s disease exhibit reduced arm swing during the later stages of the disease, but no one had come up with an easy way to measure this,’’ said Stephen Piazza, associate professor of kinesiology. “We found that not only do people with the disease exhibit reduced arm swing, but they also exhibit asymmetric arm swing, and this asymmetric arm swing can easily be detected early in the disease’s progression.’’
No cure for Parkinson’s disease exists. But according to Piazza, if taken early, certain drugs can improve some of the disease’s symptoms and even reduce the likelihood of death, making early diagnosis important.
To diagnose patients with Parkinson’s disease early, some doctors and scientists have proposed the use of a smell test, because people with the disease lose their ability to distinguish odors, according to Xuemei Huang, movement disorders physician at Penn State. “But conditions other than Parkinson’s disease also can affect a person’s ability to smell,’’ she said.
The Penn State team’s method of evaluating arm swing can be applied quickly and inexpensively by primary care physicians in their own offices when the smell test is inconclusive and before the application of an expensive brain scan.
For more information in the study, check out: http://live.psu.edu/story/56809.
For more information or to get answers to your questions, please contact your Home Instead Senior Care office in The Greater Phoenix, AZ area. We can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.