Biological sex differences go beyond internal and external anatomical differences. These differences can greatly impact the etiology and pathophysiology of many diseases and, consequently, can influence incidence, diagnostic accuracy, and clinical outcomes.
Among neurological conditions that may be influenced by biological sex is Parkinson’s disease. While the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease is 1.5 as high in men than in women, research shows that women have a higher mortality rate and faster progression of the disease. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 400,000 women living with Parkinson’s disease—yet, women with Parkinson’s disease remain severely underrepresented in Parkinson’s research.
There is still a clear and urgent need for more research in this space, however, we are starting to see some research bringing these differences to light. In this article, we will take a look at emerging research surrounding Parkinson’s in women versus men and the role of research in delivering personalized treatment and care.
Current evidence points to biological sex as an important factor involved in the development and expression of Parkinson’s disease. It is possible that Parkinson’s disease development involves distinct pathological mechanisms in male and female patients. Alternatively, it may involve the same mechanism but act differently between biological sexes. Regardless, emerging research shows that there may be a physiological difference in how Parkinson’s disease pathology manifests in women versus men. While research is still highly limited, studies suggest the following differences.
Prevalence, Onset & Progression:
Motor and Non-Motor Symptoms:
Identifying and understanding the differences in Parkinson’s in women versus men will likely play a crucial role in terms of diagnostic accuracy and therapeutic approaches. Continued research and increased awareness around these differences may help bridge the gap in patient care by better capturing the needs of women with Parkinson’s disease.
Ultimately, clinical research drives patient care. To be able to provide precise, personalized treatment and care, we need to understand the role of aspects such as biological sex, genetics, and cultural context in Parkinson’s disease. With a greater understanding of how hormones and biological sex influence Parkinson’s disease, healthcare providers can customize management plans to adjust for unique stages of women’s lives, including during menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
More research surrounding the differences between men and women with Parkinson’s disease is fundamental to the ability to provide women with equal care and treatment. There is still much to be learned about the effect of biological sex on Parkinson’s disease development, progression, and response to treatments and therapies.
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