WEDNESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- A certain type of sleep disorder may be an early warning of Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders, new research confirms.
Patients with REM sleep behavior disorder, a condition in which people violently act out their dreams during the rapid eye movement cycle of sleep, have been found to develop Parkinson's and related neurological disorders as much as a half century later.
The findings suggest that these neurological disorders may start developing much earlier than previously suspected.
Once researchers can identify which patients with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) will go on to develop a neurodegenerative disease -- something that is not yet possible -- they may be able to intervene earlier.
"It just makes sense that we're not going to really impact diseases like this unless we intervene early," said Dr. Bradley F. Boeve, senior author of a paper released online July 28 in advance of publication in the Aug. 10 print issue of Neurology.
"If you can intervene when the disease is still at the brain stem and not affecting some other critical structure in the brain, hopefully at the very least we can slow it down," he said.
Another expert, Dr. Michael Thorpy, agrees. "This is important for us understanding the progression of the disease because this RBD obviously precedes other clinical manifestations of Parkinson's by many years," said Thorpy, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "In the future, should we ever have something that can modify the disease process of Parkinson's, then very early diagnosis may be critical."
A connection between Parkinson's and RBD was first noticed a couple of decades ago by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, said Boeve, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Until now, the media
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