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The effect of onset age on the clinical features of Parkinson’s disease


Huw R Morris, Neurology (C4), University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff CF14 4XN, UK (tel.: +44 2920 743660; fax: +44 2920 744394; e-mail:


Many clinicians view age at onset as an important determinant of clinical phenotype in Parkinson’s disease (PD) and this has been reinforced by the identification of Mendelian genes that account for some cases of younger onset PD. A systematic review of OVID Medline for articles relevant to the relationship between clinical features and age at onset in PD published in English between 1950–2007 was performed. There are very few prospective community based studies which focus on the relationship between age at onset and the features of PD and a variety of case definitions are used in the literature. Most studies of young onset PD are based on specialist clinic referral series. The available evidence suggests that PD patients with a younger age at onset have: (i) a slower disease progression, (ii) an increased rate of dystonia at onset and during treatment, (iii) a lower rate of dementia and (iv) an increased rate of dyskinesias in response to l-DOPA treatment. The majority of the available studies do not report patient genotype data, but it is probably that the clinical heterogeneity of PD will be further refined with detailed clinico-genetic studies.