African-American patients and those with lowerincome and education levels suffer more severely and have greaterdisability from parkinsonism, according to a study in the onlineedition of Archives of Neurology.

Parkinsonismis commonly found among older Americans. The condition, which ischaracterized by symptoms of slow movements, tremors and rigidity, is aneurological disorder similar to Parkinson’s disease. In fact, “themost common cause of parkinsonism is Parkinson’s disease, adebilitating, chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder with anincidence rate that increases with age,” said study authors.

Forthe study, researchers at the University of Maryland in Baltimoresurveyed 1,159 patients with parkinsonism who were evaluated bymovement disorder specialists between 2003 and 2008. The questionnairesassessed study participants’ demographics, disease severity, disabilitylevel and medication use history.

Researchers found AfricanAmericans had more severe parkinsonism and greater disability comparedwith white patients. In addition, scientists also linked lower incomeand education to greater disease severity and disability.

What’smore, researchers also noted treatment disparities between blacks andwhites. Data showed that 61.9 percent of African Americans wereprescribed fewer medications to treat parkinsonism during their firstdoctor visit compared with 77.6 percent of whites. Furthermore, 20.6percent of African Americans were prescribed newer medications to treatthe condition compared with 41.1 percent of white patients. And docsprescribed antipsychotic meds for 12.7 percent of black patientscompared with 6.1 percent of whites.

Because parkinsonismreduces quality of life, causes disability and leads to prematuredeath, researchers suggested doctors needed to better understand thedisease. That way, docs could find remedies for all patients with thedisease, regardless of their socioeconomic background and financialstatus.

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