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Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

December 7, 2016

Sex- and age-related differences in parkinsonism

By Elizabeth Zimmermann

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have found that drug-induced parkinsonism occurs more often in women than in men. It is also the most common type of parkinsonism among people younger than age 40.

These findings, made possible by the Rochester Epidemiology Project, were published online in Movement Disorders. They give a different perspective from the team’s earlier findings published in June of 2016 showing that overall rates of Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism have gone up over the last 30 years, more so in men. (Read June 2016 news release.)


Rodolfo Savica, M.D., Ph.D.

Epidemiology studies are the backbone of our understanding of many diseases,” says Rodolfo Savica, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s lead author, and a neurologist and medical researcher at Mayo Clinic. “We are able to observe patterns and make connections that can lead to better health predictions, more precise treatments or other care interventions.”

Such is the case with his team’s most recent research. There are a number of different types of parkinsonism – a neurodegenerative condition – including the most common:  Parkinson’s disease. Most are caused by significant physical degeneration of various parts of the brain. However, one subtype, drug-induced parkinsonism, can be caused by exposure to certain drugs or toxic agents that block or deplete dopamine, a chemical in your brain essential to movement.

After reviewing 30 years of medical records across the population contained in the Rochester Epidemiology Project, the researchers learned that the rates of drug-induced parkinsonism have significantly decreased overall (nearly 70 percent in 30 years). This correlates to a decline in the use of certain antipsychotic medications in medical practice. However, the team made some additional observations that may help doctors improve their ability to diagnose and treat their patients:

  • For women, the risk of developing drug-induced parkinsonism is about twice as high as for men.
  • Elderly people (age 70 or older) are at a higher risk of developing drug-induced parkinsonism.

“We hope that our findings will help physicians and patients in their decision making when it comes to prescriptions that could cause parkinsonism,” says Dr. Savica. “It’s one more piece of the puzzle that helps us provide the best possible care for our patients.”

The Rochester Epidemiology Project is a unique medical records-linkage system and collaboration in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A half-century-old community collaboration, it has contributed to both the national and global understanding of disease, treatment effects, and environmental and behavioral determinants of health.


Tags: Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, epidemiology, Findings, Rochester Epidemiology Project

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