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Early Diagnosis, Therapy key to Tackling Parkinson’s Disease: Austrian Experts Say

An early diagnosis and commencement of therapy are key factors in providing sufferers of Parkinson’s disease with an improved quality of life, Austrian experts said ahead of World Parkinson’s Disease Day on April 11.

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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement, chiefly affecting middle-aged and elderly people. It is associated with degeneration of the basal ganglia of the brain and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

In a joint press release Friday, the Austrian Society of Neurology (OeGN) and the Austrian Parkinson’s Association (OePG) said the need to be aware of warning signs of onset of the disease is thus very important.

These include tremors in extremities on only one side of the body, such as a hand that is at rest.

Further symptoms are disruptions to fine motor skills such as a slowing of movement, the lack of swinging of one arm or dragging of one foot while walking, a noticeable reduction in the size of handwriting, and joint pain through increased muscle tension.

"Today we have a wide range of therapeutic options available to treat Parkinson’s in all stages," the two groups stated. They added that each individual case can be treated with a selection of relevant therapies, and that "the earlier we can begin the better."

President of the OePG Eduard Auff said at the point of the above symptoms significant damage to nerve cells in the brain that are responsible for dopamine production has however already occurred, meaning the pathological processes behind the progression of the disease can have already gone unnoticed for years and caused damage.

"In future we will have to make early diagnoses even earlier, and find new ways to do this," he added.

An estimated 16,000 Austrians suffer from the disease, two-thirds of whom are men. Experts believe this number will at least double by the year 2030 due to increased life expectancies.

By Robert Muriisa.

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