There is still no cure for Parkinson’s disease, a haunting neurological condition that can severely affect the body’s movement. It is a progressive disease that can ultimately prevent one’s ability to walk, talk and even sleep. Currently, there are no tests that can diagnose someone for this disease. Doctors can, however, reach a diagnosis with different tests to detect early symptoms of the disease such as blood tests or brain scans. PET, another imaging test, may be able to detect low levels of dopamine in the brain, an identifying symptom of Parkinson’s. But even so, these tests have faults in accurately diagnosing Parkinson’s and can even detect the disease too late.
Sniffing it Out
Researchers from Cambridge University, however, found that a simple breath exam may be able to reveal an early diagnosis of Parkinson’s. In a smaller study of just fifty seven people, the Cambridge researchers were able to differentiate people with Parkinson’s with breath testing alone. This method of ‘sniffing the disease’ out is not too far-fetched. In the past, breath tests have successfully diagnosed heart disease, liver and kidney diseases and even cancer. Now, with funding from Parkinson’s UK and the British council, the researchers are ready to conduct a larger study of 200 people over the next three years.
Scientists are excited about the possibility of a breath test diagnosis. Dr. Simon Stott of Cambridge University says, “It’s a way for us to actually find biomarkers-things that our body’s produce to differentiate whether we are healthy or unhealthy-to help us diagnose the condition.” Breath tests can potentially help researchers not only improve diagnosis, but understand how Parkinson’s develops and “whether there are different types of Parkinson’s,” said Professor Roger Barker, leading clinical researcher at University of Cambridge.
A Hopeful Future
Though there is still no cure for Parkinson’s it is still important to diagnose the disease as early as possible. According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, the following symptoms are primary motor signs of Parkinson’s:
- Shaking or tremors of the body
- Slow movement
- Stiffness in the limbs
- Impaired balance and coordination
Studies such as these are the reasons why we are becoming closer to the day we finally say we found a cure for Parkinson’s. Until that day comes, it is important to stay on track with your mental and physical health. Focus on healthy foods and daily activity for long lasting benefits and a healthier lifestyle.