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August 2016

Are We Ready for a Potential Increase in Parkinson Incidence?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
JAMA Neurol. 2016;73(8):919-921. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2016.1599

Parkinson disease (PD) is a slowly progressing neurodegenerative disease that primarily affects older adults. It rarely occurs before age 60 years and is more common in men, with a male to female ratio of approximately 1.5. The disease may have a decades-long prodromal stage before it can be clinically diagnosed. After diagnosis, most patients with PD can survive for more than a decade but gradually develop severe physical and mental disabilities. The disease, therefore, presents substantial physical, emotional, and economic burdens to patients and family members as well as to society at large. In the past several decades, scientists have made great progress toward a better understanding of the disease’s etiology and clinical management, yet many fundamental aspects of the disease remain mysterious. For example, we are still in need of reliable estimates of PD prevalence and incidence, particularly for populations other than those of European or East Asian origins. Moreover, we know very little about whether these rates have changed over time, probably owing to difficulties in consistently identifying patients from stable and generalizable populations over a long period. In the face of rapidly aging societies around the world, such data are urgently needed to project future disease burden, allocate medical resources, and assist with understanding disease etiology.

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