• Thursday, March 30, 2023


Hearing loss, epilepsy are early features of Parkinson’s, research reveals

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

THE most diverse UK study published on Monday (7) revealed that hearing loss and epilepsy are early features of Parkinson’s disease. 

The research from the Queen Mary University of London, funded by Bart’s Charity, used data from a diverse population and was published on JAMA Neurology, a statement said.

Researchers used electronic primary healthcare records from over a million people living in East London between 1990 and 2018 to explore early symptoms and risk factors for the disease. They also used additional data from the UK Biobank.

According to the study,symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, including tremor and memory problems, can appear up to ten and five years before diagnosis respectively.

Parkinson’s research so far was largely focused on affluent white populations, with patients from minority ethnic groups and those living in areas of high social deprivation largely under-represented.

However, the new study used data from a diverse and deprived urban population for the first time.

The study revealed that in East London, conditions like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes were associated with increased odds of developing Parkinson’s. Researchers also observed a stronger association between memory complaints within this population than previously described.

East London has one of the highest proportions of black, South Asian and mixed/other ethnic groups, which comprise around 45 per cent of residents, in comparison to 14 per cent in the rest of the UK. It also has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK, and 80 per cent of patients included in the study were from low-income households.

Lead study author Dr Cristina Simonet, neurologist and PhD student at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Our results uncovered novel risk factors and early symptoms: epilepsy and hearing loss. Whilst previous research has hinted at the association, such as epilepsy being more prevalent in Parkinson’s patients than in the general population, more research is now needed for us to fully understand the relationship.

“It’s important that primary care practitioners are aware of these links and understand how early the symptoms of Parkinson’s can appear, so that patients can get a timely diagnosis and doctors can act early to help manage the condition.”

Co-author of the study, Dr Alastair Noyce, reader in neurology and neuroepidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, said that remor is one of the most recognisable symptoms of Parkinson’s – but was seen ten years before eventual diagnosis in our study.

“If we’re able to diagnose Parkinson’s earlier, we have a real opportunity to intervene early and offer treatments that could improve quality of life for patients,” Dr Noyce said.

Shafaq Hussain-Ali

The PREDICT-PD is a large research project funded by Parkinson’s UK to identify people at high risk of developing the condition. The researchers are looking for 10,000 people aged 60-80 years from all backgrounds who do not have Parkinson’s, to take part in a simple set of online tests that screen for factors linked to increased risk of the condition.

Researchers hope that through the study they can slow down or cure Parkinson’s in the future.

Shafaq Hussain-Ali, a former native East Londoner of Pakistani Punjabi descent who was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s three years ago, said: “I want to get the message out that young Asian people like myself can be affected by this condition, and that more people are likely to be affected by young-onset Parkinson’s in the future. Getting an early diagnosis can make such a difference to quality of life and Parkinson’s progression.

“With appropriate management, you can carry on living well and have a productive life. I am still a practicing dentist, who enjoys swimming, walking and Kung Fu. I also still love doing my crochet!”

Eastern Eye

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