A recently published study has found that a change to the way a person walks could be an indicator of the cognitive decline seen in Parkinson’s disease. According to the Telegraph, taking shorter steps, having an irregular pattern when walking, and moving in a swaying motion were all found to be linked to this type of decline.
NHS Choices explains that Parkinson’s is a disease that sees a gradual decline in part of the brain, causing damage which leads to both physical and psychological problems. The main symptoms include stiff muscles, slow movement and a tremor. The damage caused by the disease takes place over many years, and a person living with it may also experience a wide range of other problems including depression, difficulties with memory and a loss of the sense of smell.
The study, which looked at the way 120 people with Parkinson’s walk, could help doctors to identify the early signs of cognitive decline in their patients. This means that although Parkinson’s does not have a cure, its symptoms can begin to be managed much sooner.
The report also highlights how the study may help to identify a patient’s risk of developing dementia with Parkinson’s, as developing a mild form of this has been connected to people living with Parkinson’s. However, this measure is still in its very early stages, and requires further testing to determine the strength of the link.
At present, the current methods for treating Parkinson’s disease include supportive therapies such as speech and language and occupational therapies, as well as there being medication available to some patients who may experience tremors as part of the disease.
For more information about the disease, charity Parkinson’s UK provide a wealth of advice and details on the types of help available.