Two key early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that may have been identified in a new UK study

Research published by JAMA Neurology found that hearing loss and epilepsy could be two early signs of Parkinson’s disease, as well as other symptoms seen years before a formal diagnosis

Hearing loss and epilepsy can be early signs of Parkinson's disease
Hearing loss and epilepsy may be early signs of Parkinson’s disease, a new study has found

Hearing loss and epilepsy may be early signs of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study.

The study, published in JAMA Neurology, uncovered the symptoms seen in patients years before a diagnosis.

The study was the first of its kind in the UK and analyzed the neurodegenerative disease in a very diverse population to take a closer look at how the disease affects all types of people who are daily record reports.

The researchers found that neither ethnicity nor socioeconomic status were associated with an increased or decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

The study, conducted by a team from Queen Mary University of London, looked at both risk factors and pre-diagnostic symptoms.

To do this, the researchers analyzed the medical records of over a million people who lived in East London between 1990 and 2018.

Scan showing a human brain with Parkinson’s disease


(Getty Images/CulturaRF)

Using this geographic data provided the researchers with information from a very heterogeneous population with ‘high socioeconomic disadvantage’.

According to the study, about 45% of East London residents are Black, South Asian, Mixed or other ethnic groups.

In particular, research found that people who have epilepsy have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life.

Although researchers stated that drug-induced Parkinson’s disease could not be ruled out in this case, this is not the first time that epilepsy has been linked to Parkinson’s.

Case reports from 2016 found that Parkinson’s and epilepsy can coexist. This can happen prior to a Parkinson’s diagnosis or in cases where epilepsy develops after diagnosis.

According to the study, hearing loss can also be an early sign, occurring up to five years before a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Lead study author Cristina Simonet, MD, said: “Our results uncovered new risk factors and early symptoms: epilepsy and hearing loss.

Links have also been found between Parkinson’s and low blood pressure, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“It is important that GPs are aware of these connections and understand how early symptoms of Parkinson’s can appear so that patients can receive a timely diagnosis.”

Researchers noted that more analysis is needed regarding hearing loss and its link to Parkinson’s disease.

The experts suggested that hearing loss may be part of the impairment in sensory processing that so often accompanies the development of Parkinson’s.

Sensory impairments manifest themselves in different ways in different patients – through vision, hearing or even through the sense of smell, the researchers say.

In addition, the study suggested new trends within the already known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

It was found that tremors – a common symptom of the disease – appeared up to 10 years before diagnosis and became more frequent in the two years before diagnosis.

Memory problems – the most commonly reported non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s – have been found to precede an official diagnosis by up to five years.

Links have also been found between Parkinson’s and low blood pressure, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

The disease was also positively associated with pre-diagnostic signs and symptoms such as constipation, depression and erectile dysfunction.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease – Complete List

According to the NHS, the three main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:

  • Tremors – Tremors that usually start in the hand or arm and are more likely to occur when the limb is relaxed and at rest
  • Slowing of Movement (Bradykinesia) – Bodily movements are much slower than normal, which can make everyday tasks difficult and result in a characteristic slow, shuffling walk with very small steps
  • Muscle stiffness (rigidity) – Stiffness and tension in the muscles, which can make it difficult to move and make facial expressions and can lead to painful muscle spasms (dystonia).

However, there are a number of other physical and mental symptoms.

According to the NHS, physical symptoms can include:

  • balance problems
  • loss of smell (anosmia)
  • nerve pain
  • trouble peeing
  • constipation
  • an inability to get or keep an erection (erectile dysfunction) in men
  • Difficulty becoming sexually aroused and reaching orgasm (sexual dysfunction) in women
  • Dizziness, blurred vision, or fainting when transitioning from a sitting or lying position to a standing position
  • excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • excessive salivation (drooling)
  • sleep disorders (insomnia)

According to the NHS, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms include:

  • depression and anxiety
  • mild cognitive impairment
  • dementia

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