​Continued from previous page.

Predicting Parkinson disease based on a combination of risk factors.

Prof Tolosa said recent research has shifted from motor to pre-motor symptoms, to find ways to predict and delay the effects of the disease.

A neurologist from the University of Barcelona in Catalunya, Spain and a world expert on Parkinson Disease (PD), he said: "Nowadays, we diagnose PD only when a patient has mobility issues. To detect it early, we should look at the pre-symptomatic phase too. The goal is not just to treat, but also to prevent, delay or even eliminate PD."

He advised doctors to consider the combination of risk factors, including genetics. "If your father had PD and you are losing your sense of smell, and have abnormal sleep movements and constipation, you may be prone to PD," he said.

Currently, there are no definitive diagnostic criteria, but Prof Tolosa said it is important to develop them, as pre-motor symptoms alone are not a reliable diagnosis of PD, as they could also be signs of other conditions.

For clear diagnostic criteria, studies on high-risk populations, such as the relatives of PD patients, and advances in imaging are needed. "It is imperative for diagnostic tools to be developed to give PD patients a better chance," he said.

What is Parkinson disease?

Parkinson disease is the second most common neuro-degenerative disease after Alzheimer and currently has no cure. Patients cannot coordinate their movements, find it difficult to walk and balance, and have stiffness and shakiness in their limbs. In advanced stages of PD, the patients have problems swallowing food and may experience hallucinations.

NNI's study on Parkinson disease

Can PD be predicted? Commenting on the topic, Associate Professor Louis Tan, Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the SingHealth group, said: "This is an exciting topic being researched around the world."

He said NNI is conducting its own research on PD in Singapore and is involved in ongoing studies in collaboration with the Singapore Chinese Health Study. This is a long-term study of 60,000 elderly Chinese. The aim is to determine what health and lifestyle factors may predict or modify the risk of them developing PD.

On predicting PD, he added: "The main goal is to develop drugs and agents that can delay or prevent the onset of PD in people who are at a higher risk of developing it.

"However, we need to first define these individuals who are at risk, based on genetic and/or clinical factors."

Ref. T12