There are 3 main issues seen by medical experts who are familiar with Parkinson’s disease (PD). These are movement symptoms, timely medication, and tracking symptoms evolution. Many innovative products have been developed to help PD patients with their symptoms, allowing them to lead a normal life.
PD symptoms increase the risk of falls leading to injury and complications resulting in a lower quality of life, which can snowball into other mental health issues in patients. PD ranks as the number 1 priority for research focusing on healthcare by Parkinson’s UK.
Freezing of gait (FOG) - Parkinson’s patients’ major cause for falls
While PD manifests through motor and non-motor symptoms, it is the motor aspects (such as resting tremor, bradykinesia, rigidity, and postural instability) that increase the risk of falls and that cause Freezing of Gait (FOG). FOG is a common symptom for people with PD. It occurs when the patient is unable to start or continue walking, and feels like their feet stick to the ground. Often accompanied by shaking legs, it is quite disturbing for PD patients. FOG normally occurs in episodes when a patient is in the advanced stage of the disease however, it can also happen in the earlier stages. Lasting up to a few minutes, the freezing leads to difficult horizontal walking. But the patient can still walk vertically (for example, climb stairs).
How Path Finder helps with FOG
Freezing of gait is usually handled with drugs or cueing. Visual and auditory cues are more effective than pharmacological treatments. How so? In addition to having no side-effects, cues trigger more beneficently the patient’s ability to take a horizontal step. The limitation in drug-efficacy has led clinicians to look for a treatment that uses sensory cueing.
The benefits of visual cueing
Gait is negatively influenced by attention processing when going through a dual-task (e.g walking and talking simultaneously). As deficits in executive function (including attention) are common, they are combined with reduced basal ganglia activation which results in gait initiation fails in PD patients. Sensory cues provide an external trigger that can start that movement and allows the person to take the step with the guidance of that external cue.
The cue works by activating the motor cortex rather than the impaired basal ganglia. The motor cortex remains intact in PD. Visual cues have shown to have significant improvement in movement amplitude in people with or without FOG.
Where Path Finder comes in
If PD patients find themselves shuffling, freezing, and having movement blockages, struggling to start walking or can still go up the stairs better than walking on a flat surface, Path Finder is the medical device that will help ease freezing. Path Finder is a laser light cueing device attached to the person’s shoe. It constantly projects a green laser line in front of the opposite foot, for every step, removing the need for the person walking to activate the light during FOG episodes. The cue helps the brain to start movement for the person, encouraging walking again.
Path Finder provides cues only when the opposite foot is in contact with the floor, thus allowing continuous cueing. This decreases the duration of freezing episodes more than on-demand cueing because it brings more attention to the act of gait. Cueing reduces the duration of freezing episodes. The risk of falling is also reduced as it is highest during the first few seconds of the freezing episode.
By decreasing the need to internally plan and prepare movements, external cues remove the cognitive load, allowing the patient to focus his attention on walking, making gait a priority. Visual cues improve movement amplitudes in people with and without FOG, making Path Finder a beneficial assistant to PD patients not only when they experience freezing.
People with Parkinson’s can keep their quality of life by managing symptoms as much as possible. Freezing of Gait is a serious symptom of PD and Path Finder is a safety net that patients can rely on. It gives people the confidence to move on their own.
Path Finder has been making the lives of Parkinson’s patients easier and better since Spring 2017.