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Bowel Problems May Be Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease, Study Finds


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Certain Bowel Problems May Be Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

According to a study published in the journal Gut, certain bowel problems like constipation, difficulty swallowing, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be early signs of approaching Parkinson’s disease.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms as Preceding Indicators

Gastrointestinal symptoms are believed to precede the development of cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke, cerebral aneurysm, or Alzheimer’s disease. The new study suggests that bowel disease might also be an early indicator of Parkinson’s disease.

Study Methodology

To test this hypothesis, researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Health Records Network (TriNetX). They compared 24,624 individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease of unknown cause with individuals diagnosed with other neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease (19,046) or cerebrovascular disease (23,942). They also had a comparison group without any neurological conditions (24,624).

The comparison groups were matched in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and duration of diagnosis. The researchers examined the incidence of bowel diseases recorded in their electronic health records, on average 6 years before the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.


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The researchers divided all adults with diagnosed intestinal diseases into separate groups for each disease of interest. They compared these groups to individuals without a specific bowel disease who were followed up with medical records for 5 years to determine the development of Parkinson’s disease or other neurological disorders.

Both analyses revealed that four gastrointestinal conditions were associated with an increased risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), constipation, and IBS without diarrhea were all linked to a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Interestingly, the removal of the appendix appeared to have a protective function, raising questions about its potential role in the pathological processes leading to Parkinson’s disease. Inflammatory bowel disease and vagotomy (removal of all or part of the vagus nerve to treat peptic ulcers) did not show an increased risk.

Other bowel problems like functional dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and fecal incontinence were also more common among people with Parkinson’s disease. However, these conditions were also more prevalent before the onset of Alzheimer’s or cerebrovascular disease.

Limitations and Conclusion

It is important to note that this study was observational, and therefore, the cause-effect relationship could not be established. However, the researchers concluded that this study provides substantial observational evidence that not only constipation but also dysphagia, gastroparesis, and IBS without diarrhea can predict the development of Parkinson’s disease.

The findings highlight the need for vigilance regarding gastrointestinal syndromes in individuals at high risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and call for further investigation into gastrointestinal precursors of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease.

Source: Medical Express

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