(HealthDay News) – Quality of life begins to decline for Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients years before diagnosis.

To assess quality of life in PD patients before diagnosis, Natalia Palacios, ScD, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues assessed quality of life using components of the Short-Form Health Status Survey, administered to all participants in the 1996 and 2008 Health Professionals Follow-up Study and to participants in the Nurses’ Health Study in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004. Scores in seven health-related quality-of-life dimensions were rated. Data were included from 454 men and 414 women with PD.

The researchers found that, among PD patients, a significant decline in physical function began approximately 7.5 and three years prior to diagnosis in women and men, respectively. The decline continued after diagnosis, with a rate of 2.35 and 1.43 points per year in women and men, respectively, compared to the average yearly decline of 0.42 and 0.23 points per year, respectively, for individuals without PD. There was a similar pattern of decline seen for other quality-of-life measures (only available in women).

“This result provides strong support to the notion that the pathological process leading to PD [starts] many years before the onset of the first neurological symptoms, and suggests that biological markers of the disease process may be recognizable in this preclinical phase,” the authors write.

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