Parkinson’s patients are prone to a higher risk of injurious falls and hip fractures, a study reveals.
The disease, which breaks down specific nerve cells and is usually diagnosed at around the age of 70, has an insidious onset — affecting mobility and balance at first — that can be traced to at least two decades back, the study said.
The researchers from Umea University in Sweden found a reduced muscular strength in the arms of patients, on an average more than two decades prior to Parkinson’s diagnosis.
This reduced muscular strength seems to result in an increased risk of injurious falls and fractures several years before the diagnosis, explained the researchers.
The risk of hip fractures are especially high such patients, something that is likely caused by reduced balance and incapability of rotating the body in the event of a fall in order to protect the hip, the study showed.
“By investigating health data from registers, we could see a correlation between individuals who were later diagnosed with Parkinson’s and who were more often involved in injurious falls. It was also shown that the higher risk of hip fractures could be measured more than two decades before the diagnosis,” said Helena Nyström doctoral student at Umea University.
The correlation also shows signs of the gradual dysfunctional balance reactions and impaired mobility being present at a much earlier stage, although it has previously been thought to happen in relatively late stages, the researchers explained.
The study examined health data from all Swedes who were 50 years or older in 2005 (N=3.3 million). Out of these, 24.412 were diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the period of 1988-2012, and these individuals were matched against ten people each in the control group.
Researchers found that 18 percent of all Parkinson’s patients (before diagnosis) and 11.5 percent of controls had at least one fall-related injury.