With the advent of new technologies in genetic therapy and the benefits of early treatment of disease, it cannot be understated how important detection of risk factors is when the prevalence and seriousness of Parkinson’s is on a steady incline. Parkinson’s is a complex neurological condition where environmental and genetic markers can be key components in measuring risk. Understanding the role that genes play is one thing but actually utilizing this next-generation technology in today’s information age is invaluable, especially as the decreased cost and augmented access to more specific genetic testing allows medical practitioners to make increasingly precise judgments on diagnosis and prevention of worsening symptoms.
Oftentimes, the best strategy for combating neurological disease is early detection and monitoring risk. Parkinson’s disease patients have doubled over the past 25 years and is expected to double again in the next quarter-century (NIH). Part of this is due to increased life expectancy, but also in big part to worsening environmental factors that increase risk. It is very difficult for patients and physicians alike to fully consider all the underlying risk factors, especially obscure ones, until problems actually arise. However, genetic testing is an easier solution than attempting to treat ailments as symptoms appear or worsen; often leaving you and your patient with much fewer options. Businesses are a great example of this kind of foresight. Companies have already fleshed out their future strategies and have foreseen likely roadblocks. They look at past trends and try to discern what could happen further down the road to get ahead of the curve. Health works quite similarly; Parkinson’s has multiple genetic markers that can indicate higher risk. Using every tool means that you are providing the best possible care.
Unfortunately, the causes of Parkinson’s are not well understood. Exposure to certain toxins and certain genetic mutations can increase the likelihood of getting the disease, but only to a small extent. However, presence of multiple genetic markers specific to Parkinson’s, along with family history can indicate elevated risk. The main course of action for these individuals is psychosocial counseling, along with enrollment in research studies and support programs. This may seem ineffective, but more careful observation allows possible patients to benefit from early treatment. Since many symptoms are similar to other neurodegenerative disorders, at-risk patients showing signs of Parkinson’s can be more easily diagnosed by looking for biomarkers specific to the disease (Parkinson’s Disease). Understanding future risk of any disease is key for preventive and early treatment to help patients maintain their independence as long as possible (Parkinson.org).
As a physician, your primary concern is your patient’s health. Most physicians utilize patient history as part of a medical evaluation and that information can often be a key component in diagnosing and preventing disease, especially issues that are recurring throughout the patients’ family. However, not all patients have comprehensive knowledge of their relative’s medical history and how far that knowledge extends varies wildly from person to person. Genetic testing fills in those gaps between what the patient can remember about their family history and any predispositions, obvious or not, that you can find as a physician. This will allow you to make more accurate judgments and have a better baseline understanding of every patient who walks in the door regardless of how conscious they are of their family health history.
Parkinson’s disease is difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat. Noticing early risk factors is important in keeping those diagnosed healthy as long as possible and helping your patients become aware of any added risk they might have with certain genetic markers. Contact us to start implementing newer technology into your practice, and give your patients more options, earlier, today.