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A looming pandemic: Cases of Parkinson's disease double in 25 years

16-Nov-17
Article By: Melissa McAlees

A Parkinson's disease pandemic is imminent, scientists have warned, with cases of the disease more than doubling in just 25 years.

Credit: Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock.com

Research published in the journal JAMA Neurology, suggests it is now the world's fastest growing neurological disorder - ahead of dementia - and shows no signs of slowing.

There are now an estimated 6.9 million people living with Parkinson's worldwide and, by 2040, the number is expected to increase to 14.2 million.

University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist, Ray Dorsey, said: “Pandemics are usually equated with infectious diseases like Zika, influenza, and HIV. But neurological disorders are now the leading cause of disability in the world and the fastest growing is Parkinson’s disease.”

The study looked at the prevalence of diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, stroke, epilepsy, meningitis, encephalitis and multiple sclerosis.

The researchers, from the University of Rochester in the Netherlands, found that between 1990 and 2015, rates of Parkinson’s more than doubled around the world.

They claim this growing pandemic is due to under-reporting, misdiagnosis and increasing life expectancy and argue that the medical community should pursue the same strategies that, in 15 years, transformed HIV from an unknown and fatal illness into a highly treatable chronic condition.

“This upcoming increase in the number of Parkinson patients is striking and frankly worrisome” said Bastiaan Bloem from Radboud University in the Netherlands. “We feel it is urgent that people with Parkinson’s go to the pharmaceutical industry and policymakers alike, demanding immediate action to fight this enormous threat.”

Parkinson’s disease, is a neurological condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over the years.

The three main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body, slow movement, and stiff and inflexible muscles. A wide range of other physical and psychological symptoms can be experienced, including: depression, balance problems, insomnia and memory problems.

Todd Sherer, chief executive officer of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research, added: “Too many people have Parkinson’s today and more will face diagnosis tomorrow. We all — government, patient organisations, researchers, doctors and patients — must work together for better care for those living with this disease and research toward a future without Parkinson’s.”

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