Virtual reality googles which provide hope to  Parkinson’s patients to  be made available on the NHS

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Patients with Parkinson’s disease are often frozen to the pot during attacks
  • A trial in Yorkshire offers special googles to patients to stop them ‘freezing’

Parkinson’s patients could soon be given virtual reality (VR) goggles on the NHS to combat symptoms of the degenerative condition.

The incurable disease, which occurs when parts of the brain become damaged, affects mobility, leaving sufferers struggling to move and experiencing involuntary shaking.

One of the most common problems causes patients to suddenly stop moving and feel as though they are stuck to the ground – also known as freezing. This often arises upon reaching a doorway or standing up.

It is unclear why, but experts believe it may be due to the brain struggling to compute the change of environment.

Parkinson’s patients could soon be given virtual reality (VR) goggles on the NHS to combat symptoms of the degenerative condition

Physiotherapists in Yorkshire are now offering Parkinson¿s sufferers a headset which offers ¿unfreezing¿ exercises that they can master at home (file photo)

Physiotherapists in Yorkshire are now offering Parkinson’s sufferers a headset which offers ‘unfreezing’ exercises that they can master at home (file photo)

This is typically treated with physiotherapy sessions that include techniques such as stepping over an imaginary object or marching in place before stepping forwards.

However, these tricks are not always effective and often require attending sessions at a clinic to practice – a challenging prospect for patients with limited mobility.

But physiotherapists in Yorkshire are now offering Parkinson’s sufferers a headset which offers ‘unfreezing’ exercises that they can master at home.

The normal world can be seen through the goggles, but artificial images are projected on to the screen. In one setting, patients can see a bird floating in front of them. As they walk towards it, the bird moves away. And another shows coloured lines on the floor which light up as the user gets closer.

Experts claim the gadget – called a Strolll headset – is so effective that patients wearing it no longer experience freezing.

‘Patients are so focused on what they are seeing, such as the lines on the floor, they don’t notice they have entered a new room and do not freeze,’ says Karen Hodgson, director of Hallamshire Physiotherapy Clinic.

‘Patients can then take the headset home with them and practise as much as they like without the guidance of a physiotherapist. The more they practise these methods, the less likely they are to freeze.’

Researchers at Leeds University are currently recruiting NHS patients for a trial of the technology.

If successful, this could lead to thousands of Parkinson’s patients being offered the headsets.

‘Freezing is a really unpleasant experience, and patients often feel embarrassed when it happens in public,’ adds Ms Hodgson.

‘This isn’t a cure, but it’s a really great way to manage the worst of the symptoms.’

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