October 30, 2016

Identifying Five Different Types of Parkinson's May Lead to Varying Treatments

I'm a member of the online discussion forum sponsored by HealthUnlocked for people with Parkinson's disease (PD). I wish I had more time to spend exploring the site and participating in some of the discussions. But I monitor it regularly because I often find useful information.

For instance, one of the members recently shared an interesting video of a talk by Dr. Michelle Hu from the Oxford Parkinson Disease Center. In that video clip, Dr. Hu describes how the center's work led to identifying five different types of PD.

Parkinson's is a uniquely heterogeneous disease. As a member of a weekly Parkinson's support group for the past seven years, I've been struck by the wide variety of ways in which the disease manifests itself.

Yet all too often the medical profession adopts a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Dr. Hu hopes that identifying PD patient subtypes will lead to more individualized -- and effective -- treatments.

The Oxford researchers identified about 700 patients recently diagnosed with PD. They were assessed according to:
  • Psychological well-being -- apathy, pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression.
  • Non-tremor motor features -- stiffness, rigidity, speech, balance, swallowing.
  • Memory and cognitive features

Five Types of Parkinson's Patients
Analysis of the data resulted in identifying these subgroups:
  1. Patients who were generally doing pretty well with only mild motor and nonmotor symptoms (30 percent)
  2. Patients with poor posture, gait, sense of smell, and poor memory (22 percent)
  3. Patients with severe tremor problems but otherwise okay (24 percent) 
  4. Patients with poor psychological well-being, and rapid eye movement sleep disorder (15 percent)
  5. Patients with severe motor and nonmotor disease and poor psychological well-being (10 percent)
If I had been tested by the Oxford researchers early in my PD, I'm sure I would have been classified as group 1.

I found Dr. Hu's talk interesting. Here it is:

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