Medical Minute 02-22

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email

More than one-million Americans are living with Parkinson's disease. Right now - doctors diagnose it by conducting a physical exam that's often unreliable. But…as Andrew McIntosh reports… that's about to change.

William used to be a professional welterweight fighter. Today - he's fighting a different yet powerful opponent - Parkinson's disease. Debora Bergstrom is also battling the condition-- that causes tremors, balance problems and speech issues.

The mom of three was diagnosed four years ago - by a neurologist. But - many people wait years before getting that diagnosis. Doctors physically examine patients for the telltale symptoms to formulate their conclusion. But their observations aren't always accurate.

40 percent of Parkinson's patients are undiagnosed and at least 10 percent who are diagnosed don't really have it. Doctor Louise Thomson says a new imaging test - called dat-scan - is giving doctors a glimpse inside the Parkinson's brain. First - doctors inject patients with a tracer. Then - they scan the brain for dopamine - a chemical that Parkinson's patients lack.

Thomson says the test can tell doctors if the patient has Parkinson's or just a tremor disorder - which is treated differently An earlier diagnosis means patients can start treatments sooner - potentially slowing symptom development of this devastating disease.

For William and Debora - every symptom-free day matters. Now -- doctors are one step closer to figuring that out.

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