Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive movement disorder that affects the nervous system. Currently, nearly one million Americans are living with the disease, and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Symptoms of this disorder tend to start out subtly, gradually worsen over time, and are often overlooked until more serious signs develop. Read on to learn about a symptom that new research shows can appear up to five years before diagnosis, and what you should do if it happens to you.
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The most common symptom associated with Parkinson’s disease is tremor, but there are several others that frequently appear in Parkinson’s patients. These include slowed movement (bradykinesia), stiff muscles, loss of automatic movements, difficulty speaking, poor balance, altered posture, and changes in handwriting, according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, there is also a wide range of less common symptoms that can affect patients with PD, and some of these are unrelated to movement. “Patients are sometimes unaware of non-motor symptoms, such as constipation, depression, or erectile dysfunction, which are common manifestations of Parkinson’s disease,” Cristina SimonetMD, a neurologist and lead author of a new study on early symptoms of PD, said Very good health. “Therefore, they will not report these symptoms to their GP. This is why direct questioning is so important.”
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According to Simonet’s study, published in JAMA Neurology in March 2022, there is a non-motor symptom that can appear five years before the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease: hearing loss.
Simonet and his team analyzed the health data of more than one million people in east London, England, and found that some of the known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease show up earlier than you might think. thought before. They observed that patients with hearing loss severe enough to require a referral for a hearing test were more likely to develop PD within five years than those who did not.
While the presence of one symptom cannot lead to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, recognition of a cluster of symptoms can. For this reason, adding hearing loss to your list of possible red flags can help you better communicate your symptoms to your doctor.
Parkinson’s disease mainly affects older people and hearing loss is more common in this population. However, Parkinson’s disease also appears to directly affect hearing, according to research. “Auditory dysfunction is a common non-motor manifestation of early-onset PD and more common in younger patients, indicating that it may be independent of aging,” concludes a 2019 study published in the Movement Disorders Diary (JMD).
As the Mayo Clinic explains, people with Parkinson’s disease have low levels of dopamine in the brain. Experts say that inadequate dopamine levels can damage the cochlea, a cavity in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss.
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Maintaining a healthy social network can improve anyone’s health, but it’s especially important for people with Parkinson’s disease. Indeed, social isolation can markedly worsen the cognitive and motor symptoms of PD.
In a 2020 study published in the journal NPJ Parkinson’s diseasethe researchers found that “people who reported being lonely had 55% higher symptom severity than those who were not lonely. People who documented having lots of friends had 21% fewer symptoms than those who had few or no friends Social isolation was associated with greater severity of patient-reported PD and lower quality of life, although it is unclear whether this is the cause and/or a consequence of the disease.
Having your hearing tested and getting a hearing aid if needed can keep you in crucial contact with loved ones. Talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your hearing, especially if other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are present.
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