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Transcript: Chat With Experts from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

AARP: Hello and welcome to today's chat!

We're glad to have with us today two experts from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Joining us is Dr. Maurizio Facheris, M.D., M.S, associate director of research programs, and Brian Fiske, vice president of research programs.

Maurizio Facheris: Hello, thank you for inviting Brian and myself to chat with the AARP Facebook community.

Brian Fiske: Hello, I'm excited to join you today. Thanks for having us.

AARP: Ok, let's start with the first question.

Comment From Jim: What age does Parkinson's usually start to show?

Facheris: Thanks for your question, Jim. Most commonly Parkinson's starts in the late 50s. About less than 10 percent of cases occur earlier in life.

Comment From Alice: How can I tell the difference between Parkinson's and just shaky hands?

Comment From David: What are the first signs of Parkinson’s and what tests are done to know if you have it?

Facheris: These are similar questions, so we wanted to share them both with our audience.

Starting with David's question first, the first signs of Parkinson's are rigidity, slowness of movement and tremor.

But, not everyone with Parkinson's develops a tremor. To Alice's question, tremor can be associated with other conditions.

The only way to test this today is through clinical evaluations by a neurologist or movement disorder specialist.

Brian Fiske: Maurizio raises a great point; this is one of the greatest challenges to diagnosing Parkinson's today. It can take years to accurately diagnose Parkinson's in some patients, especially in the very young or within the first five years.

This is why the foundation has made it a priority to identify a biomarker of Parkinson's disease.

For those not familiar with the term "biomarker," it is a marker of disease progression. For instance, cholesterol levels are biomakers of vascular disorders.
PPMI is our clinical study to identify a biomarker of Parkinson's; it stands for the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative.

Comment From David: Is there any new research on early detection?

Facheris: There is a lot of research looking at potential symptoms that could be detected before the movement problems occur.

Some symptoms like loss of sense of smell, constipation, and certain sleep problems and disorders seem to be early predictors of Parkinson's disease.

Next: My Mother had Parkinson's »

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