Frank Elstner, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael J. Fox or Ottfried Fischer – they all suffer from the incurable nervous disease Parkinson’s disease. And they are not alone in this. In Germany, about 400,000 people live with this disease.

Parkinson’s begins insidiously. Over the years, symptoms such as uncontrolled shaking, stiff muscles, slowed or frozen movements then increase. These are often initially associated with classic signs of aging and it takes a long time before the correct diagnosis is made.

Eye scan could detect Parkinson’s 7 years before symptoms begin

In fact, Parkinson’s could be detected early. With the help of eye scans, the disease can be detected an average of seven years before the first symptoms appear, researchers report in the journal Neurology.

The team from University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital used data from around 155,000 patients aged at least 40 who had been in London eye clinics over a ten-year period. They also used data from around 67,300 healthy volunteers.

The scientists were able to identify two markers. So had people with (later) Parkinson’s

  • one thinner retinal nerve fiber layer as well as
  • one thinner inner nuclear layer in the eye .

Eye scan as a “window” to the body with insight into health

“Physicians have long known that the eye can act as a ‘window’ to the rest of the body, providing direct insight into many aspects of our health,” says an accompanying press release. Other neurodegenerative diseases could also be uncovered, including Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis.

“In less than a minute, a 3D scan (OCT, optical coherence tomography) creates a cross-section of the retina in incredible detail – accurate to a thousandth of a millimeter,” the experts continue. The scans would then be evaluated with the help of an AI. Added benefit: “A scan of the retina is the only non-invasive way to look at the cell layers beneath the skin’s surface.”

You can’t prevent Parkinson’s, but you can save time

“While we cannot yet predict whether a person will develop Parkinson’s disease, we hope that this method could soon become a preventive screening tool for people at risk of developing the disease,” explains Siegfried Wagner, co-author of the study.

“Discovering signs of a range of diseases before symptoms mean that in the future people may have time to make lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of some diseases and physicians may delay the onset and impact of life-changing neurodegenerative disorders.” “

Parkinson’s at a glance

frequency and cause

Parkinson’s is a so-called neurodegenerative disease. This is where nerve cells in the brain die. Experts also call the disease Parkinson’s disease or Parkinson’s syndrome. Parkinson’s is the second most common degenerative disease after Alzheimer’s. On average, about one to two in 1000 people are affected. Men get it slightly more often than women.

Parkinson’s is usually diagnosed between the ages of 55 and 60, with every tenth patient even before the age of 40.

To date, the exact cause has not been finally clarified. What is known, however, is that there are increased deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, also known as “Parkinson’s protein”, in the brains of Parkinson’s patients.


The disease begins insidiously. The symptoms in the early stages are therefore often not associated with Parkinson’s. This includes, for example, declining fine motor skills and writing that is becoming shaky. Some sufferers lose their sense of rhythm and no longer swing their arms while walking. The facial expression becomes rigid. Some suffer from insomnia, nightmares, irritability, depressive moods and social withdrawal.

Only later do clearer signs appear. There are three classic symptoms that doctors call Parkinson-Trias describe:

  • Sedentary lifestyle (akinesia)
  • muscle stiffness (rigor)
  • shaking (tremor)


Parkinson’s cannot be cured. Treatment is based on relieving symptoms. This allows patients to have a good quality of life for many years.

Parkinson’s is primarily treated with medication (to compensate for the lack of dopamine). In some cases, brain surgery can also be useful, the so-called deep brain stimulation (DBS). Physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy can also help.


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