Nearly 75% of people who develop rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) will also develop Parkinson’s disease in the decade following their diagnosis. While there was a known link between the two conditions, an international study led in 24 clinical centres has finally revealed how decisive the risk factor is.
The researcher is pursuing his work to assess the efficiency of imaging techniques and skin biopsies to detect Parkinson’s earlier.
The finding was made by Ronald Postuma, clinical researcher at the Montréal Neurological Institute and Hospital and McGill University Health Centre, and his collaborators. They surveyed 1 280 patients suffering from RBD, which causes them to act out their dreams by moving, speaking and gesturing while asleep.
The researchers also looked at 21 other predictors of Parkinson’s disease that, when combined with RBD, increase a person’s risk of developing the neurological disorder. For example, anosmia (loss of sense of smell) triples the risk, and constipation doubles it.
According to Ronald Postuma, following patients when their predictive symptoms begin to appear may, one day, slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease by treating the symptoms and especially creating therapies to protect the brain from cell degeneration. With this in mind, he is pursuing his work to assess the efficiency of imaging techniques and skin biopsies to detect Parkinson’s earlier and more accurately gauge its evolution.
There is currently no treatment for Parkinson’s, which causes tremors, slowness of movement, problems keeping balance and other non-motor symptoms. There are approximately 100 000 Canadians living with the disease.