Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative movement disorder that is not easy to diagnose. A neurologist makes the diagnosis based on medical history, a physical and neurological exam and an analysis of signs and symptoms. Unfortunately, by the time there are definite signs and symptoms, extensive brain damage has already taken place. A way of diagnosing Parkinson’s in its early stages before brain damage sets in might offer a chance for some kind of early treatment to stop or slow down the progression of the disease. Also, there are other disease conditions that mimic Parkinson’s disease and some of these respond to Parkinson’s medicines and some do not. Most of these Parkinson mimicking diseases also do not have specific tests for making a positive diagnosis.
Breathalyzer Can Detect 17 Diseases including Parkinson’s in their Early Stages
Now Israeli scientists led by Professor Hossam Haick from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion−Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel have developed a simple, non-invasive, affordable and portable way to diagnose Parkinson’s disease in its early stages as well as 16 other diseases, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), lung cancer and stomach cancer. The results of their research were published July 10, 2018 in the ACS Nano Journal . Basically, when people exhale, their breath gives off volatile organic compounds related to various diseases and these scientists have developed a simple artificially intelligent Nanoarray breathalyzer tool that is able to detect the particular substance in exhaled breath that shows which disease a person has. This test has 86% accuracy and this can help lead to a better and more accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Each disease has its own distinctive breathprint and if one disease is present it will not keep another disease from also being diagnosed.
Parkinson’s Disease is a motor disease, which is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s. It affects about a million Americans and more than 10 million people worldwide. For some unknown reason the brain stops producing dopamine which controls movement and norepinephrine that controls many automatic functions in the body like heartbeat, blood pressure and digestion. This leads to walking, balance, coordination, speech and swallowing problems. People with Parkinson’s have tremors at rest, rigid muscles and suffer from many unintentional falls. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease see our blog post from June 14, 2018. There is no cure for it and eventually the person with Parkinson’s may need assisted living or long-term skilled nursing care like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York.
Diseases that Mimic Parkinson’s Disease
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, there are several diseases that mimic Parkinson’s. Here are a few of them that can cause confusion in getting a true diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease:
Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)
This brain disorder affects walking and balance that often causes unintentional falls. This condition can also cause problems with vision and eye movement, especially looking up and down and this also leads to falls. Like Parkinson’s, it can cause swallowing and speech problems.
Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)
This is a rare, but progressive nervous system disorder that causes problems with the function of the autonomic nervous system that controls bladder function and high blood pressure. It has some of the same symptoms as Parkinson’s disease such as poor coordination. However, it is not possible to provide a definite diagnosis, as there is not a test available for MSA. There is also no real treatment except for alleviating some of the symptoms.
This condition can come on at any age. An essential tremor causes tremors, or uncontrolled shaking, in the hands and sometimes the head, that usually progresses over time. Whereas the tremor of Parkinson’s usually only affects one hand or arm, essential tremor often affects both arms or hands. There is some evidence that people with essential tremor have a higher risk to develop Parkinson’s disease.
Cortical Basal Syndrome (CBS)
This is a rare condition that can begin with one limb on one side of the body. CBS can lead to fast, jerky movements and difficulty with speaking and walking. It is not easy to diagnose as no test exists for it.
Lewy bodies are abnormal proteins that cause disruption to the brain that leads to depleting the brain of normal dopamine levels. Lewy bodies can lead to symptoms similar to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as to dementia that may be accompanied by hallucinations and depression.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH)
Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a buildup of fluid within the brain that may cause difficulties with walking and balance and sometimes a loss of bladder control. NPH can be confused with both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. However, unlike Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s, NPH can be reversed and treated with shunt therapy that drains the excess fluid out of the brain. To learn more about NPH see our blog post from April 11, 2018.
Until now there has not been any way to accurately diagnose Parkinson’s disease. This simple non-invasive breathalyzer tool can make it possible for doctors to diagnose diseases like Parkinson’s from their clinic, when the disease is in its earliest stages and before extensive brain damage has taken place.