A Mayo Clinic study published in the November issue of Neurology found that constipation occurring as early as 20 years before the onset of motor symptoms is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
“This study is another piece of evidence suggesting that Parkinson’s disease has a very long preclinical period,” says Walter Rocca, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic and an author of this study. “Thus, patients who will develop Parkinson’s disease later in life may begin showing symptoms when they are younger. This information can assist in making predictions of future risk of Parkinson’s disease in younger patients.”
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. Symptoms include tremor, slowed movement and rigid muscles. At least 1 million people in the U.S. are believed to have Parkinson’s disease, and 2 percent of the population can expect to develop the disease during their lifetime.
The study found that a history of preceding constipation was about two times more frequent in 196 individuals with Parkinson’s disease as compared to 196 age and gender matched controls without Parkinson’s disease. The researchers accounted for differences in age, smoking, coffee consumption and the use of constipation -inducing medications.
“Constipation is common in patients with established Parkinson’s disease and may reflect problems in the autonomic nervous system, which is primarily outside the brain, regulating bowels, bladder, and other internal functions. However, because constipation is a common symptom, patients with Parkinson’s disease may also have constipation that is not related to their neurological problem,” says Dr. Rocca. “Approximately 20 percent of the control subjects in our study experienced constipation but never developed Parkinson’ s disease. So for some patients, constipation may signal an increased risk of Parkinson’ disease, but constipation is not a specific marker for the disease. There are many other causes of constipation that are not related to Parkinson’s disease.”
View more information on Dr. Rocca’s research here.