Parkinson’s Disease and Telemedicine

According to a story from Parkinson’s Disease Today, a recent review highlights the potential benefits and limitations of telemedicine in treating Parkinson’s disease. However, the authors also say that more extensive research is necessary in order to determine what role it will actually play. Telemedicine has the potential to revolutionize treatment for many diseases and conditions.

About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a type of long term, progressive, degenerative disorder of the nervous system that primarily affects the ability of the patient to move effectively. Abnormal proteins called Lewy bodies accumulate in the brain. Potential causes of Parkinson’s disease include certain genetic variants and mutations, previous head injury, and pesticide exposure. Avoidance of caffeine and tobacco smoke also increase risk slightly. Symptoms of the disorder include tremors, postural instability, stiffness and slowness of movement, dementia, difficulty with cognition, depression, anxiety, hallucinations, sleep disturbances, and difficulty walking. These symptoms generally worsen over time. Treatments and management approaches include surgery, rehabilitation, and certain medications. There are no treatments that can cure the disease or halt its progression. Life expectancy with Parkinson’s disease is highly variable but averages about a decade. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, click here.

The Role of Telemedicine

Specialty care can be very helpful for patients with this disease, but many people do not have regular access to it. Patients in rural areas often do not have specialty care as a practical option. Telemedicine could considerably improve access to the specialized treatment and care that Parkinson’s disease patients need in order to avoid debilitating symptoms.

Some research suggests that telemedicine is no less effective than in-person follow up appointments, and can also be cheaper and more convenient for patients. With that said, an in-person visit is better suited for diagnosis. As other studies have noted when looking at other illnesses, telemedicine appears to be just as effective as in-person appointments for Parkinson’s disease, with patients experiencing similar treatment outcomes.

However, some disadvantages are present. Firstly, telemedicine requires high-speed internet, which not all patients currently have access to. Another difficulty is the fact that disparities in video quality mean that it may be more difficult for doctors to assess a patient’s symptoms in a telemedicine appointment.

Overall, the approach needs more research before the role of telemedicine in treating Parkinson’s disease can be more articulated. Check out the original study here.


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