Number with Parkinson’s Could Double by 2040 – and Doctors Aren’t Ready

According to an article from Healio, a recent study found that there has been a significant increase in the rate of Parkinson’s occurrence around the globe over the last 25 years. In 1990, just 2.5 million people in the world were diagnosed with Parkinson’s – by 2016, that number had jumped to over 6 million.

About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a serious condition affecting the nervous system that progresses over time. Though Parkinson’s is commonly associated with the tremors experienced by many of those with the condition, symptoms can vary between individuals. Patients’ muscles may become stiff, making movement difficult. Eventually even fine motor function may be affected, making it difficult to speak, write, or blink.

The disease causes groups of neurons in the brain to atrophy and waste away. The resulting damage can interrupt the transmission of important chemical and electric signals that are vital for normal body function.

Researchers haven’t pinpointed a single root cause for Parkinson’s. As is typical in such cases, most scientists believe it to be the result of multiple contributing factors like genetic disposition and environmental exposure to certain toxins.

About the Study

The team behind the research has looming concerns about the increasingly common condition. Estimates suggest that by 2040, there could be anywhere between 12 and 17 million diagnosed cases of Parkinson’s worldwide.

Treating Parkinson’s is already a huge uphill battle – currently no treatments exist that can slow the progression of the disease. Given that the number of those affected could double in the next twenty years, we could be looking at a serious health and financial crisis pressing the world’s healthcare providers.

As the number of patients continues to outpace the number of specialists, it’s likely that fewer and fewer Parkinson’s patients will have access to adequate specialist care. That’s a big deal – a 2011 study suggested that Parkinson’s patients treated by a neurologists had lower rates of hip injury, nursing home admission, and death versus those with no access to neurological care.

The job of accurately identifying and diagnosing the condition will increasingly fall to primary care general practitioners – the doctors most regularly in touch with their patients. However, in one recent poll about the diagnosis and management of Parkinson’s, responding primary care physicians only answered about 57% of questions correctly. A different poll found that over 50% of primary care physicians would prescribe medications to Parkinson’s patients that were not part of the accepted treatment guidelines.

In short, our current medical infrastructure is ill-equipped to deal with the growing Parkinson’s boom. To effectively counter it, general practitioners must improve their awareness of the disease, and specialists will have to expect to work some long hours.

Do you think our healthcare industry is conscious enough of growing demand for treatment of certain individuals? Do you think policy should be more reactive? Patient Worthy wants to hear your thoughts!

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