Parkinson’s may cause changes in stool ‘at an early stage’

Parkinson’s may cause changes in stool ‘at an early stage’


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Parkinson’s is an incurable disease that progressively hinders the part of the brain in charge of movement via cell death. Exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear, but it’s known that dopamine is responsible for many of the symptoms of the condition. Catching the disease early is important as many of the treatments are more effective when administer in the early stages.

In 70 percent of cases, Parkinson’s disease originates in the nervous system, but in the remaining 30 percent of cases, it is the nervous system of the intestine – or the enteric nervous system – that is compromised.

When Parkinson’s starts in the enteric nervous system, the disease is labelled “body-first Parkinson’s disease” (or body-first PD for short).

A great number of patients with this form of Parkinson’s experience REM-sleep behaviour disorder as their first sign.

This disorder causes individuals to act out their dreams, which tend to be both vivid and disturbing.

“The so-called isolated REM-sleep behaviours disorder is a condition that can provide an indication of Parkinson’s well in advance,” explained Science Daily.

New findings have now shown that changes in a person’s stool may also be apparent in people with the sleep disorder.

The latest body of research, led by Professor Erdem Gültekin Tamgüney, from the Institute of Physical Biology at HHU, reports that elevated a-synuclein aggregates may be present in stool samples in the early stages of the disease.

In body-first PD, the deposits characteristic of Parkinson’s form in the neurons of the enteric nervous system, which is in charge of the gastrointestinal tract.

Professor Tamgüney explained: “We are the first to prove the presence of a-synuclein aggregates in stool samples.

“Our results show a significantly higher level of a-synuclein aggregates in REM-sleep behaviour disorder patients compared with healthy individuals or patients with Parkinson’s.

“These findings could lead to a non-invasive diagnostic tool for prodromal synucleinopathies – including Parkinson’s -which could in turn enable therapies to be initiated at an early stage before symptoms occur.”

Most patients with Parkinson’s experience non-motor symptoms before anything else.

In fact, nearly 25 percent of people with the condition experience constipation before developing motor signs.

It is believed that constipation is caused by a lack of dopamine, which causes the bowel muscles to become slow and rigid.

The Better Health Channel explains: “Many people who have Parkinson’s disease notice difficulties with constipation before they notice motor symptoms such as tremors or stiffness.

“The bowel muscles may be weak and unable to contract, or they may clench instead of relaxing when trying to pass a motion.”

Other signs of the disease result from the degeneration of nerve cells in the middle area of the brain.

Because these cells make and store dopamine, their degeneration can result in lower dopamine levels.

A doctor who suspects bowel changes could be linked to Parkinso’s will review other signs and symptoms and analyse your medical history before making a diagnosis.

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