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Educated Parkinson's Patients Move to Meds Sooner

Researchers aren't sure what spurs need for early treatment

TUESDAY, July 14 (HealthDay News) -- Parkinson's disease patients with higher levels of education or disability typically need treatment for their symptoms earlier than other patients, a new study finds.

The study included 413 patients with early, untreated Parkinson's disease who took part in clinical trials of experimental drugs. The patients were assessed at the start of the trials and monitored to see when they needed to start treatment for their symptoms.

After one year, 200 of the patients had started symptomatic treatment. Those who had higher levels of disability and impairment at the start of the study were more likely to experience rapid disease progression. The researchers also found that higher levels of education were independently associated with earlier treatment.

"The impact of the patient's education level on clinical management is an unexpected finding and merits further investigation," wrote Dr. Sotirios A. Parashos, of the Struthers Parkinson's Center in Golden Valley, Minn., and colleagues.

They said it's possible "that higher education may be associated with greater occupational demands and an increased need for symptomatic control. However, one might expect that occupations placing higher demands on physical abilities (usually associated with lower education levels) would be associated with a more pressing need for symptomatic control. An alternate possibility is that patients with higher education are more likely to be better advocates for their health care needs and play a more active role in medical decision-making."

The study appears online and in the September print issue of the journal Archives of Neurology.

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We Move has more about Parkinson's disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, July 13, 2009

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