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Parkinson's is on the Rise

In 2005, there were an estimated 4.1M people worldwide with Parkinson's disease. In 25 years, that number is predicted to climb to 8.7M.

The numbers of people growing old and living longer have led to ominous projections for Parkinson's disease. By 2030, there may be 80 percent more Americans with the disease, and the numbers will double in developing Asian nations, according to a new study.

Dr. E. Ray Dorsey and his colleagues at the University of Rochester say the prevalence will grow as populations shift in age. In 2005, there were an estimated 4.1 million people worldwide with Parkinson's disease. In 25 years, that number is predicted to climb to 8.7 million.

"This is a chronic condition that will be claiming more and more people," said Dorsey, co-author of the study published this month in the journal Neurology. The scientists said the growth will be greater outside the U.S. China and India have growth curves that are more like a triangle, with more young people than older ones. Over time, this will tip the scales as the young population ages and leave more people vulnerable to Parkinson's and other age-related diseases like Alzheimer's.

"They are absolutely on target," said Dr. Warren Olanow, professor and chairman of neurology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, referring to the new study. "This will certainly be a bigger public health issue. Not only will more people develop Parkinson's but patients will have it longer and remain disabled by it."

He suspects there are close to a million people in the U.S. with Parkinson's. Olanow recently testified before Congress that the movement disorder costs society $27 billion a year in medical bills and lost wages. "This new study illustrates the personal, family and social problems this will represent," he added. Parkinson's is primarily an age-related disease. Symptoms take hold when most of the dopamine-containing cells in a brain region called the substantia nigra die away. But while medicines that target the brain chemical dopamine offer relief in the early days of the disease, in time they stop working effectively. The treatments don't seem to help the gait disturbances, freezing, falling and dementia that follow the path of this disease.

The answer, Olanow and Dorsey agree, will come from more research and new treatments that protect against Parkinson's, or slow its course. Parkinson's researchers now know it isn't only dopamine-containing cells at play in the progressive illness. Olanow said Parkinson's is characterized by other pathologies spread throughout the brain. Work is now under way to develop drug treatments -- including gene therapy and stem cell therapy -- to stall the disease process.

Alzheimer's disease is far more common, with about 4.5 million patients in the U.S. By 2030, this number is expected to double.

In the U.S., the proportion of the population over 65 was 12.4 percent in 2000 and expected to jump to 19.6 percent in 2030, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: Newsday www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hspark0130,0,4058498.story?coll=ny-leadhealthnews-headlines

Commentary from the Parkinson's Disease Foundation on Prevalence of PD Studies

Two articles in the January 30 issue of Neurology attempt to shed some new light on the continuing question: how many people Ė now and in the future Ė are affected by Parkinsonís disease (PD) and other neurologic disorders?

In ďProjected number of people with Parkinsonís disease in the most populous nations, 2005 through 2030,Ē lead investigator E.R. Dorsey, M.D., points to the looming problem of the aging population, and indicates that this will cause a near doubling in the number of people with Parkinsonís in the next 25 years. This information emphasizes the need to increase investments and attention to Parkinsonís research and care.

A second article published in the same issue, ďHow common are the Ďcommoní neurologic disorders?Ē, lead author D. Hirtz, M.D., presents data compiled from a review of hundreds of published studies since 1990 to pinpoint the number of people living with Parkinsonís in the United States. Among people over 65, she comes up with the figure of a minimum of 349,000. Although the study is an important step in determining exactly how many people live with the disease, this figure is not the bottom line for the total number of people with Parkinsonís. It does not count PD cases among people younger than 65 and it does not by definition include people who have PD but have never been diagnosed. Finally, because Dr. Hirtzís numbers include only those with the classic form of Parkinsonís, it excluded other forms of parkinsonism, sometimes called the ďParkinsonís-plus syndromes.Ē

The comprehensive review of published literature is an important contribution to help scientists and researchers establish a clearer picture of Parkinsonís disease. Studies such as these continue to remind us of the need to gather more data on the numbers of people who live with Parkinsonís and other age-related disorders, and the cost the disease imposes on individuals, families and society as a whole.

Source Date: Jan 29 2007
Source Publication: Newsday
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