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Ibuprofen May Help Prevent Parkinson's Disease


If you take ibuprofen regularly, you may be reducing your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. That is the finding of a study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd Annual Meeting in April.

Each year, approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a type of motor system disorder that affects an estimated one million people in the United States. Getting an accurate figure of the number of people who have the disease is challenging because many people who have early symptoms of the disease assume they are associated with normal aging and so do not seek medical advice. In addition, other conditions produce symptoms similar to Parkinson’s and so the disorder may be misdiagnosed.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement; and impaired balance and coordination. As the disease progresses, individuals often develop depression, problems with swallowing and talking, sleep disturbances, urinary problems, and skin disorders. Although Parkinson’s usually affects people older than 50, it can occur in younger people, a fact that was made well known years ago when the actor Michael J. Fox announced that he had the disease at age 30.

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This newest research, which was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, involved a total of 136,474 people who did not have Parkinson’s disease at the beginning of the study. The participants were questioned about their use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.

After six years, 293 participants had developed Parkinson’s disease. The researchers found that individuals who had taken ibuprofen regularly were 40 percent less likely to develop the disease when compared with people who did not take ibuprofen. The more ibuprofen that people took, the less likely they were to develop Parkinson’s disease. Use of other NSAIDs, including aspirin and acetaminophen, did not seem to have an impact on reducing the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

How and why ibuprofen appears to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease is not known and will be the topic of future research. According to the American Academy of Neurology, currently there are no blood or laboratory tests that have been proven to help in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosis is based on a person’s medical history and a neurological examination, and brain scans can be used to rule out other diseases. It should be noted that use of ibuprofen can cause side effects, mostly gastrointestinal in nature, including abdominal distress, nausea, and indigestion.

American Academy of Neurology news release, Feb. 17, 2010