Is it possible to detect Parkinson’s sooner?

Over60 native article for the Garvan Institute

Parkinson’s disease has long been a source of confusion, misinformation and misunderstanding, with many believing it to simply be “the shakes”. But there is so much more to this cruel and complex disease.

According to Parkinson’s Australia, there are currently around 70,000 people affected by the disease in this country alone. The average age of diagnosis is 65 years, but for some, the dreaded news can come much earlier.

“My mother had Parkinson’s,” Over60 community member Pauline Marrone explains. “She was first diagnosed at 43 years old and passed away at 73. The last 10 years of her life, once she became bedridden, were terrible to watch, particularly the involuntary jumping of her legs after she had taken her medication. My dad was her carer. He passed away in his sleep, in bed next to her, and she was unable to do anything but lay there next to him until help arrived. It was very traumatic.”

Not only is its cause currently almost impossible to pinpoint, it’s also notoriously difficult to diagnose, as there are currently no laboratory tests available – diagnosis is all down to examinations conducted by neurologists.

To understand a bit more about the disease, and learn about an exciting breakthrough that may lead to the development of an effective treatment, we spoke to Associate Professor Antony Cooper. As head of the neuroscience division at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, his work focuses on a number of neurodegenerative diseases – primarily, Parkinson’s disease.

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