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Studies find correlation between diabetes severity and Parkinson's

June 10, 2015
by Megan Combs, Associate Editor
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In a pair of studies involving 1,100 people over the age of 55, researchers found a correlation between diabetes severity and Parkinson's and that caregiving between men and women with Parkinson's disease (PD) is different.

Performed by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the study concluded that when patients had a comorbidity of Parkinson's and diabetes, the conditions of both worsened each other.

"Our study was based on emerging evidence that the presence of diabetes may increase the risk of both Parkinson's disease and specific motor features in parkinsonism," said Nabila Dohodwala, MD, in a press release. She is an assistant professor of Neurology at Perelman and the director of the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence at the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Pennsylvania Hospital. "We hypothesize that the high burden of cardiovascular risk from diabetes contributes to brain injury, which can impact cognition and parkinsonism."

More studies are needed to show causality between diabetes and Parkinson's, and results could show that aggressive management of diabetes could provide more motor benefit.

Researchers also studied caregiver patterns among Parkinson's patients to see if there were differences in care delivery between men and women. The study found that women with Parkinson's had fewer informal caregiving resources and were more likely to use paid caregivers. 

Men were more likely to have a regular care partner than women, but were less likely to have a paid caregiver, however women were faster to get their first paid caregiver.

"Parkinson's patients rely on formal and informal caregiver support as the disease worsens," Dahodwala said in the press release. "We hope that this study spurs some of the key stakeholders in PD to develop policies that ensure adequate support for women with the disease. Our analysis shows there is a real need for it."

Read more about the gender differences in Parkinson's caregiving here.

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