WPC Roving Reporters: Day One Science

The 2nd World Parkinson Congress includes three days of sessions discussing the latest news in Parkinson’s science and care. PDF’s reporters have been listening in during this first day and a half. We have asked them to let us know what they have seen and heard….and to share the most important messages they are hearing as people living with Parkinson’s.

Here are two reports from Wednesday, September 29:

Steve DeWitte
Session Attended: Early Diagnosis and PD

“This session included four presentations. In the second, Andrew Siderowf, M.D., presented results from trials studying olfaction, or sense of smell. He and other colleagues said that there is now more certainty than before that olfactory failures (loss of sense of smell) may show themselves in people upwards of five years before the clinical symptoms of Parkinson’s are displayed. Over 80 percent of people with Parkinson’s suffer loss of their olfactory sense. This exceeds tremor as a common early onset identifier. With such results, neurologists in the future may be able to look for other markers to validate PD diagnosis earlier, and consider treatment options sooner.”


Jackie Hunt Christensen
Session Attended: Environment, Epidemiology and PD

“In this session, researchers discussed several environmental (meaning things that are in the world around us or that happen to us) factors that are associated with increased risk of developing PD. These include, among others increasing age; being male; head injury + alpha-synuclein gene; pesticide exposure; and non-smokers + LRRK2 gene.

One theory of PD hypothesizes that, in addition to the dopamine system, at least four other parts of the brain are affected. Sense of smell, sleep disorders and constipation MAY be early indicators of PD, but there is not enough evidence to allow any of those conditions to be used as biomarkers (indicators of disease that can be measured before a person dies).

Caffeine intake (coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages) and smoking may be associated with lower risk of PD.

It’s suspected that many things that we have done in our home and work lives could have unwittingly played a role in our Parkinson’s disease. Having certain genes could have increased our risk, too.

This was a very technical presentation, but in my opinion, many patients can learn to understand this information and ask thoughtful questions.”

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