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New Study on Parkinson's Disease: Thinning Of The Eye Is An Early Sign!

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder, which affects more than 10 million people globally. It is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's disease. Men are 1.5 times more likely to get Parkinson's disease than women. [1] .

Certain neurons in the brain are responsible for producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in sending messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination.

When these neurons gradually die, the levels of dopamine start decreasing, causing abnormal brain activity. And as a result, the symptoms of Parkinson's disease start appearing, which include slow movements, stiffness in the arms and legs, problem with balance, muffled speech, decreased blinking, swallowing, and blank facial expressions.

One can detect the early signs of Parkinson's disease, which include the following [2] :

  • Movement and coordination
  • Voice
  • Facial expression
  • Handwriting
  • Sleep problems
  • Sense of smell

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A new study has shown that the thinning of the retina is another obvious sign of Parkinson's disease. The study was published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology [3] .

Study author Jee-Young Lee, MD, PhD, of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul National University Boramae Medical Center in South Korea said, "Our study is the first to show a link between the thinning of the retina, a known sign of the progression of the disease - the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine."

"We also found the thinner the retina, the greater the severity of disease. These discoveries may mean that neurologists may eventually be able to use a simple eye scan to detect Parkinson's disease in its earliest stages, before problems with movement begin," elaborated Dr. Lee.

About 49 people who were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease were involved in the study. Researchers evaluated their eyes with a complete eye examination and they found the thinning of the retina, mostly in the two inner layers of the five layers of the retina.

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The thinning of the retina correlated with the loss of neurons that produce dopamine and this also corresponded with the severity of disease.

However, more studies are required to determine just why retina thinning is linked to loss of neurons. Jee-Young Lee said, "If confirmed, retina scans may not only allow earlier treatment of Parkinson's disease but more precise monitoring of treatments that could slow progression of the disease as well."

View Article References
  1. [1] Dorsey, E. R., Elbaz, A., Nichols, E., Abd-Allah, F., Abdelalim, A., Adsuar, J. C., ... & Dahodwala, N. (2018). Global, regional, and national burden of Parkinson's disease, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.The Lancet Neurology,17(11), 939-953.
  2. [2] Salarian, A., Zampieri, C., Horak, F. B., Carlson-Kuhta, P., Nutt, J. G., & Aminian, K. (2009, September). Analyzing 180° turns using an inertial system reveals early signs of progression of parkinson's disease. In2009 Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society(pp. 224-227). IEEE.
  3. [3] Jeeyun Ahn, Jee-Young Lee, Tae Wan Kim, Eun Jin Yoon, Sohee Oh, Yu Kyeong Kim, Jong-Min Kim, Se Joon Woo, Ki Woong Kim, Beomseok Jeon.Retinal thinning associates with nigral dopaminergic loss in de novo Parkinson disease.Neurology, 2018;
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