Skin test may help confirm Parkinson’s disease, other neurological conditions

Syn-One Test takes 15 minutes; used to confirm diagnosis

A new skin test is helping doctors confirm whether or not a patient has Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and other related neurological conditions.

According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 1 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, and many people go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed. This is because the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are very similar to those of other health issues.

The Syn-One Test aims to help doctors confirm or rule out the diagnosis. The test, which takes about 15 minutes, involves taking three small skin samples from the patient. These skin biopsies then go to a lab and are evaluated for a specific protein (phosphorylated alpha-synuclein) found in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Norton Neuroscience Institute is one of about 50 health care organizations in the country using the test. Movement disorder specialists Justin T. Phillips, M.D., and Jason L. Crowell, M.D., have given the test to dozens of patients over the past year.

“Parkinson’s has been, and remains, a disease that needs to be diagnosed by a health care professional, but this is a secondary test that can aid in confirming or disproving the diagnosis,” Dr. Crowell said. “One advantage of this test is that it is more specific than the other tests currently available, so it is better able to distinguish Parkinson’s disease from other conditions that mimic Parkinson’s.”

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“What we like about this test is that it’s quick for the patient and has many different applications,” Dr. Phillips said. “In some instances, we’ve even been able to determine the diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies as the cause of dementia.”

Parkinson’s symptoms

Parkinson’s disease often can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages due to mild symptoms and a gradual onset. Typically, the disease initially is diagnosed through symptoms and physical exam findings, which may include:

  • Changes in movement, including slowness of movement or tremors (shaking) of an arm or leg
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Impaired balance
  • Voice changes, including softness of speech
  • Difficulty with memory and thought processes
  • Trouble with swallowing

These symptoms are caused by destruction of certain cells in the brain, resulting in slowness and difficulty in controlling one’s movements.

How to treat Parkinson’s

Treatment for patients with Parkinson’s is directed at relieving symptoms, usually through medication or surgery. Other treatment approaches include general lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, support groups, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

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