Thousands of Britons recognize just two of the 40 frequent warning signs of Parkinson’s disease, a worrying poll has found.
Awareness of the symptoms of the devastating neurological disorder across the country is dangerously low, according to the charity Cure Parkinson’s.
This is despite the fact that early diagnosis is key to the best chance of effective treatment and a higher quality of life for people with the condition.
The economic impact of the disease could also cost the country up to ?7.2 billion by 2040, double current levels, the charity warned, unless urgent investment is made in new clinical trials in search of a cure.
The UK study, commissioned by Cure Parkinson’s, asked respondents to identify the vital signs of the condition.
Symptoms can include uncontrollable tremors, slow movements and muscle stiffness, but experts say they often don’t appear until about 80 percent of the nerve cells are lost.
Over time, the symptoms gradually get worse. It can cause symptoms related to movement, as well as pain, depression and loss of smell, experts say
While one in three adults said they knew someone with Parkinson’s, trembling and balance problems were the only two symptoms commonly selected by the public, at 69 and 52 percent, respectively.
Other common symptoms of the disease identified by respondents included tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement, and eye problems, including blurred vision.
But nearly three-quarters (74 percent) did not know that depression, anxiety or pain could be a possible sign.
More than four in five (83 percent) people were unaware that losing your sense of smell is a likely sign – a symptom that can appear years before others develop.
Two-thirds (66 percent) also didn’t know that physical frostbite, or the temporary inability to move, could be an early warning sign.
Now about 87 percent had no idea that a reduction in handwriting could also be a sign of the condition.
Survey results also revealed a widespread belief that people with Parkinson’s disease experience tremor or trembling.
While it is a common sign, it is not necessarily an early warning symptom.
How Parkinson’s affects someone can change from day to day and even from hour to hour.
Each individual will experience differences in how their condition changes or progresses.
One in 37 people living in the UK today will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their lifetime, and Parkinson’s UK estimates that 145,000 Britons are currently living with the condition.
Nearly one million people in the US also have Parkinson’s.
Although the average age of diagnosis in the UK is around 65, scientists believe Parkinson’s disease begins to progress up to 20 years before symptoms become apparent when nerve cells begin to die.
What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease. The disease affects the nerve cells in the brain that control movement.
Over time, the symptoms gradually get worse. It can cause symptoms related to movement, as well as pain, depression, and loss of smell.
One in 37 people living in the UK today will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their lifetime and Parkinson’s UK estimates there are 145,000 Britons living with the condition.
Nearly one million people in the US are living with the condition.
Most people who get Parkinson’s are over 60, but one in 10 is under 50 and it affects more men than women.
What causes the symptoms?
Nerve cells in the brain send messages to the rest of our body to control our movements. This is done using chemicals called neurotransmitters.
A part of the brain called the substantia nigra produces one of the neurotransmitters that control movement: dopamine. But in 70 to 80 percent of people with Parkinson’s, these dopamine-producing cells deteriorate and die.
The loss of dopamine-producing neurons results in low levels of dopamine in the part of the brain that controls movement and balance.
Source: Parkinson’s Europe and NHS
As part of its four key actions to prevent a future Parkinson’s ‘pandemic’, Cure Parkinson’s also warned that ?90m should be ‘urgently allocated by central government to find a cure’.
This included ?10 million for screening to identify populations at risk, ?25 million to fund treatment trial researchers and ?10 million over five years to fund a further 40 clinical research nurses.
A further ?45 million for ‘multi-arm research’, the charity said, would make it possible to test multiple drugs in one trial.
It also urged more people to participate in trials, closing the recruitment gap for scientists and speeding up the clinical trials process.
It comes as the House of Lords science and technology committee warned earlier this year that ‘clinical research is on a precipice’ due to a lack of resources and incentives to make clinical academia an attractive career path.
Research from the Association of Medical Research Charities has also found that up to four in ten (40 per cent) charitable-funded early-career scientists have considered leaving research due to funding issues since Covid hit the UK.
In March, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – which oversees the safety of medicines used in Britain – revealed that it was reviewing UK clinical trial regulations to make UK application processes “more proportionate , streamlined and more flexible without compromising on safety’.
While Cure Parkinson’s “welcomed” the announcement, “these changes must be made immediately and without further delay,” it added.
Will Cook, CEO of Cure Parkinson’s, also said: ‘It is important that we invest in Parkinson’s now. This charity and our co-funders are leading a global campaign to find a cure.
He added: ‘We have so far directly funded or assisted the funding of over ?100 million worth of clinical trials.
‘But this is not enough: now it is not science but the availability of funding that defines urgent progress.
“Our research should be a wake-up call to everyone that a pandemic is on the way and that the only way to truly avert it is to find a cure.”
What Are The 40 Frequent Warning Signs Of Parkinson’s?
4. Balance problems, eg falling
5. Difficulty walking or dragging legs
7. Freezing of motion
11. Trouble sleeping or insomnia
13. Bent or hunched posture
16. Bowel problems including constipation
19. Skin problems such as sweating or seborrhea
20. Softening or low voice
21. Speech or communication problems
23. Eye problems e.g. blurred vision
24. Foot problems such as stiffness, edema and flat feet
26. Difficulty swallowing
29. Lack of range of concentration
30. Depression including mood and personality changes
36. Loss of sense of smell
37. Loss of taste
38. Smaller handwriting