Sep 23, 2015

Wearable technology to monitor Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of central nervous system. It's more common in older people after the age of 60. It is sometime call idiopathic because it has not external identifiable cause. The early symptoms of disease are shaking, difficulty with walking, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movements), postural instability, freezing and loss a sense of smell. In later stage when disease increase, patient may have behavior and thinking issues. According to the National Parkinson’s Foundation survey in 2010 [1], nearly 1 million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease, with between 50,000 and 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Medication costs for an individual person with Parkinson's disease average $2,500 a year [2].

There is not biological markers to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Researchers are working hard to identify the cause of disease.
The physicians are use following techniques for diagnosis.
  1. The doctor tries to observe if patient’s expression is animated.
  2. Patient’s arms are observed for tremor, which is present either when they are at rest, or extended.
  3. Is there stiffness in patient’s limbs or neck?
  4. Can patient rise from a chair easily?
  5. Do patient walk normally or with short steps, and symmetrically swing their arms? The doctor will pull patient backwards.
  6. How quickly can patient regain his/her balance?
Above techniques are traditional and subjective, the result may vary as per doctor's observation. These techniques have not changed since Dr. James Parkinson suggested before 200 years (1817). There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but the drug levadopa and other medications can control symptoms for years together. In addition to above techniques physician suggest a patient to undergo PET Scan, CT Scan and MRI to check other effects on body. Accurate and objective diagnosis is primary challenge for physician.

The primary symptoms of Parkinson's disease is Moto symptoms - Shaking or tremor and walking difficulty. Latest technical innovation in sensors and wearable has potential to transform current practice of observing & capturing effect of Moto symptoms on patients. With the wearable device monitoring, symptoms can be measured objectively. For instance, a patient might inform the doctor that he felt tremor for several minutes, whereas actual duration would have been few seconds. With these wearable device doctors can get precise measurements about the "frequency and severity" of symptoms.
There are multifold benefits of using wearable to monitor patients.
  1. Automatically capture data without any effort made by patient. Real-time analysis.
  2. Data will be store in cloud to provide accessibility anywhere, anytime.
  3. Doctors can diagnosis multiple patient at a same time with cloud based system.
  4. Patient need not visit doctor for routine observation.
  5. Data will be helpful for research.
  6. Data will be used to monitor effect of new drug.
  7. Data will be used for progression of disease and behavior pattern.
Wearable has potential to revolutionize diagnosis technique for Parkinson's disease. Using wearable technology, researchers can actually monitor and measurable Moto symptoms. It will help to find new drugs, can save thousands of dollars and most importantly researchers will find cause and treatment of Parkinson's disease to save patient's life.