(10/09/12) - A simple eye test may be able to do something that has been nearly impossible - diagnose Parkinson's before there are obvious symptoms.
Ultimately, that could help slow down the progression of the debilitating disease.
These are the tell-tale signs of Parkinson's Disease that surface years after it first takes hold, says Dr. Mark Baron, "it starts a decade, maybe one, two, three before you start having motor symptoms."
Baron heads up the Southeast Veterans Affairs Parkinson's Disease Research Education and Clinical Center. He is also a professor of Neurology at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.
The doctor believes the eye test he developed is the key to early diagnosis. "Everyone with Parkinson's Disease has a tremor behind the eyes."
While wearing this device, patients follow a dot on the screen with their eyes. The dot indicates where the patient is looking on the screen.
The doctor can then analyze the data, looking for the tremors.
"In a matter of minutes, say you have Parkinson's Disease, you don't have Parkinson's Disease," Baron says.
"Can we actually predict whether they are going to get it from the eye test and the answer is yes," he adds.
It can also help reverse a misdiagnosis. Jimmy Sale was told he had Parkinson's four years ago, but after the four minute test, "we hooked him up to this system and immediately the test said A, is not Parkinson's, and B, most of the tremors are coming from the drugs."
"It was a big relief," Jimmy says.
Dr. Baron would like to see the eye test become a screening tool used during regular doctor visits. He says, along with Parkinson's, the eye test could also help detect other movement disorders.
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