Changes in the visual systems of newly diagnosed Parkinson’s disease patients may provide important biomarkers for the early detection and monitoring of the disease, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition caused by neuronal loss in several brain structures. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by tremors, rigidity or stiffness throughout the body, and impaired balance and coordination. However, non-motor symptoms across all stages of the disease are common, although they tend to be undiagnosed and under-treated since patients are not aware of the link.

Non-motor symptoms experienced by patients with Parkinson’s disease include visual alterations such as an inability to perceive colors, a change in visual acuity, and a decrease in blinking which can lead to dry eye and can precede the appearance of motor symptoms by more than a decade, according to the researchers.

The study compared 20 newly diagnosed and not yet treated patients with Parkinson’s disease and 20 age- and gender-matched healthy controls. The researchers found significant abnormalities within the visual system brain structures of Parkinson’s disease patients, including alterations of optic radiations, a reduction of white matter concentration and a reduction of optic chiasm volume. The optic chiasm is the part of the brain where the left and right optic nerves intersect.

Researchers hope that the in-depth study of visual symptoms may provide more sensitive markers of Parkinson’s disease and help differentiate Parkinsonism disorders, follow disease progression and monitor patient response to treatments.

Paper: “Visual system changes that may signal parkinson’s disease”
Reprinted from materials provided by Radiological Society of North America.

September 28, 2017