New study aims to raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease, improve quality of life

Raising awareness of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and improving the quality of life for sufferers is the aim of a new study at Griffith University.

Led by Gold Coast physician Dr Tien Khoo from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland, the research is aiming to determine the key measures that reflect resilience and influence the quality of life for people with PD, the second most common neuro-degenerative disease affecting mankind.

Currently around 25 to 30 people are diagnosed with PD every day in Australia, with the elderly most commonly affected. Symptoms such as tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness in initiating movement) and postural instability (impaired balance) are the main features of the condition.

“We are hoping to discover more about how people cope with the symptoms and the complexities of this disease,” says Dr Khoo.

“Movement issues, a predisposition for falls, balance issues and non-motor symptoms associated with gastro-intestinal, mood, sleep and drooling are just some of the far-reaching consequences of PD which we would like to get a deeper understanding of.

“Identifying these issues and understanding the characteristics that may help people better cope with the condition and their quality of life is key to this study.”

Preliminary results from the study are expected to be made available by next year, says Dr Khoo.

“We believe that we will be able to indicate that certain characteristics of disease can particularly affect an individual’s quality of life. Thus, it is important for these features to be detected and treated appropriately, especially as targeted symptom management continues to improve.

“Unfortunately there is still no cure for Parkinson’s and awareness of the condition and how it affects sufferers and their families’ lives is still quite low.

“However we are hoping to identify how a particular symptom or trait may reflect on an individual’s well-being and their ability to lead a meaningful life.”

A sub part of the study is also looking at developing better diagnostic testing for PD.

“Currently, biomarkers for PD remain elusive, with no effective diagnostic test,” says Dr Khoo. “Hence, the diagnosis of PD remains predominantly reliant on clinical acumen with any scans dependent on the patient’s outward clinical symptoms.

“As part of this sub-study, we are looking for particular proteins which could be a biomarker for the condition, therefore potentially providing us with a window to gauge the presence and severity of the disease and its future outlook.”

The study is currently seeking new participants to take part in the study which will entail a half day commitment consisting of a neurological assessment by a physician and a semi-structured interview session.

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