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16 May 2017

Patients with Parkinson’s die two years before healthy peers

Investigators looked at the survival rates of people with certain degenerative brain diseases.

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People with brain diseases such as Parkinson's and dementia with Lewy bodies die about two years earlier compared with people who don't have these conditions, a new study suggests.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive motor system disorder resulting from a loss of brain cells responsible for dopamine production.

Helpful guide

The report provides new clues about the survival of patients with degenerative brain diseases, researchers said.

"Our results may be helpful to guide clinicians counselling patients and caregivers," Dr Rodolfo Savica and colleagues wrote in the report published in JAMA Neurology.

The study initially looked at all residents of Minnesota's Olmsted County in the USA. The investigators then compared survival rates between 461 people with certain degenerative brain diseases and 452 healthy people in the general population.

The study participants with degenerative brain diseases were diagnosed between 1991 and 2010. Just over 300 had Parkinson's disease; 55 had Parkinson's disease dementia; and 81 had dementia with Lewy bodies. In addition, 16 were diagnosed with multiple system atrophy with parkinsonism, a condition that shares many symptoms with Parkinson's.

In South Africa, many Afrikaners may be at risk of contracting Parkinson's because of their ancestors, a study by Stellenbosch University found.

According to the Parkinson's and Related Movements Disorders Association of South Africa Symptoms of Parkinson's disease include:

  • Tremors
  • Slowness
  • Balance
  • Swallowing
  • Cognitive problems
  • Dementia
  • Anxiety

Many other symptoms

Dementia with Lewy bodies shares the same type of protein deposits in the brain with Parkinson's disease. But, in Lewy body dementia, these deposits are more widespread throughout the brain, according to NINDS.

Multiple system atrophy affects the central and autonomous nervous system that controls automatic functions, such as breathing and blood pressure. People with this disorder can have Parkinson's symptoms and many others, such as slurred speech, constipation and swallowing problems, NINDS says.

During the study period, nearly 69% of the patients with degenerative brain diseases died. Roughly 49% of people in the control group died in the same period.

People with multiple system atrophy with parkinsonism had the greatest risk of death during the study period, followed by those with dementia with Lewy bodies, Parkinson disease dementia and Parkinson disease, Savica's team reported in a journal news release.

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