Simple Skin Test Can Confirm Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Patients suspected of having Parkinson’s disease can now have their diagnosis confirmed with a simple skin test available at Marcus Neuroscience Institute in Boca Raton. The test identifies abnormal alpha-synuclein proteins in nerve fibers of the skin, which experts say are linked to Parkinson’s and a variety of other movement disorders.

Sameea Husain Wilson, D.O., director of Movement Disorder Neurology for Marcus Neuroscience Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital

Sameea Husain Wilson, D.O., director of Movement Disorder Neurology for Marcus Neuroscience Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, says the Syn-One Test gives movement disorder specialists like herself the ability to confirm a clinical diagnosis with up to 99 percent accuracy.

“Diagnosing a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, or multiple system atrophy can be challenging,” says Dr. Husain. “While patients with advanced disease have symptoms that are fairly obvious, that’s not always the case for those with early-stage disease.”

Studies show that a misdiagnosis can occur 30 to 50 percent of the time in earlier stages of a neurodegenerative disease. This, Dr. Husain says, is why you want to see a fellowship-trained neurologist who is specially trained to spot the differences between Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. It’s also why you want to go to a specialized center such as Marcus Neuroscience Institute that offers the Syn-One test.

“Before you can treat the disease, you have to know which disease you’re treating,” says Dr. Husain. “Many of these movement disorders have common symptoms that affect one’s gait, balance and other functions. A misdiagnosis at this point could lead to ineffective treatment plans and poor outcomes.”

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease, but people with Parkinson’s may experience:

  • Tremor, mainly at rest
  • Bradykinesia
  • Limb rigidity
  • Gait and balance problems

Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s, treatment options vary and include medications and surgery, the Foundation notes. And while the disease itself is not fatal, complications from Parkinson’s can be serious. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), complications from Parkinson’s is the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S.,

Marcus Neuroscience Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital

Marcus Neuroscience Institute, which is part of Baptist Health South Florida, is one of just a handful of highly specialized centers of excellence in the region to offer the Syn-One Test, according to Dr. Husain, and one of only 150 centers nationwide.

The test is quick, easy and painless, Dr. Husain says. “We do three small skin punch biopsies – one each in the back of your neck, the back of your calf and the back of your thigh,” she says. “We lightly numb the area first, so while you may feel some pressure during the procedure, you won’t feel any pain.” The samples are then sent to a specialized laboratory for analysis.

In addition to its accuracy, Dr. Husain says another major benefit of the Syn-One Test is that the results are available in just three weeks. “For patients suspected of having Parkinson’s, every week spent waiting for confirmation just delays for another week our ability to help them manage their disease,” she says. “The sooner we can confirm our diagnosis, the better.”

A more complicated test – the Dopamine Transporter Scan (DaTscan) – allows clinicians to see if your body is manufacturing dopamine properly. It has also proven to be highly accurate in confirming Parkinson’s disease diagnoses but the results can take months, according to Dr. Husain.

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