ICYMI: Possible Link to Parkinson’s Disease Pain and Nerve Damage Found

According to a story from Parkinson’s News Today, a recent study may have discovered the origins of chronic pain and damage to the sensory nerves as found in some cases of Parkinson’s disease. The study attributes changes to levels of glucocerebroside and anandamide as the culprit. The researchers determined that glucocerebroside was unusually high in patients whereas anandamide was unusually low.

About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a type of long term, progressive, degenerative illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms tend to develop over a period of years and primarily affect the movement ability and mental state of the patient. The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains a mystery, although there are a number of risk factors that have been identified. These factors include head injuries, pesticide exposure, and certain genetic variants and mutations. About 15 percent of patients have a close relative with the disease, suggesting some genetic connection. Symptoms include slowed movements, poor coordination, trouble walking, shaking, stiffness, abnormal posture, depression, anxiety, inhibited thinking, hallucinations, and dementia. Treatment may involve a number of medications, rehabilitation, and surgical operations. Survival rate varies, but most patients survive around a decade after getting diagnosed. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, click here.

Chronic Pain and Sensory Loss

Around two thirds of patients living with this disease report dealing with chronic pain, making it the primary non-motor symptom attributed to it. In some cases, medication can help resolve this symptom. The study involved a collaboration between researchers in Israel and Germany. The study involved two participating groups: the first group compared 128 Parkinson’s disease patients and 224 healthy volunteers. The second compared 50 other patients to 50 healthy volunteers.


The first group of patients reported pain 66 percent of the time; the second group did 74 percent of the time. Patient reported sensory loss included loss of temperature (hot vs cold) sensation and loss of vibration; these mostly affected the feet. While almost all patients had abnormally high glucocerebroside and unusually low anandamide, this disparity was especially pronounced in patients that reported the highest levels of pain and sensory dysfunction. Interestingly, in those with nerve pain, this disparity was also higher than average. These patients were also more likely to report involuntary movements.

Another important factor to note is that not all patients with sensory problems reported chronic pain, meaning that this symptom can appear independently. 

While more research is necessary, the findings suggest some link between changes to the levels of these fatty molecules and chronic pain/sensory dysfunction. The authors suggest that cannabis-based treatments could potentially normalize anandamide levels and therapies used to treat Gaucher disease could stabilize glucocerebroside.

Learn more about this study, published in the journal Movement Disorders, here.

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