Parkinson’s Disease

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Parkinson’s disease diagnosis

Currently, no blood or lab tests exist that can definitively diagnose Parkinson’s disease13. An official diagnosis—which is based on a patient’s medical history and a physical examination—will most likely be made by a healthcare provider who specializes in neurological (brain) disorders.

Parkinson’s disease shares symptoms that can overlap with other conditions. In order to consider diagnosing someone with PD, a healthcare provider must see at least two of the four following symptoms present over a period of time:

  • Shaking or tremors
  • Bradykinesia (slow movement)
  • Arm, legs, or trunk (upper body) stiffness
  • Balance issues

There are certain conditions¹³ that display symptoms very similar to those seen in Parkinson’s disease, and will be important for your healthcare provider to consider when determining your diagnosis:

  • Essential tremor: An involuntary shaking that worsens when you attempt to move or use your hands. This differs from the tremors seen in Parkinson’s disease, which occur at rest.
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus: An excess of fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord which causes gait (walking) problems, memory and cognition difficulties, and urinary incontinence (inability to restrain urination reflexes). This condition most commonly affects older people.
  • Lewy body dementia: A disease that affects mood, cognition, and movement through an accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain (called Lewy bodies). Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can mimic late-stage symptoms of Lewy body dementia.
  • Multiple system atrophy: A progressive disorder in which nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord atrophy (die), ultimately causing symptoms such as impaired speech, tremor, stiffness, and bradykinesia (slowing movement).
  • Corticobasal syndrome: A syndrome caused by protein buildup (similar to Alzheimer’s disease) that affects movement and language centers of the brain.
  • Progressive Supranuclear Palsy: A progressively worsening condition that damages the nerve cells of the brain, resulting in problems maintaining balance, stiffness, and vision problems.

To reduce the potential for misdiagnosis, it is ideal for your healthcare provider to consult with a movement disorder specialist (MDS)14. A movement disorder specialist is a provider who has undergone general neurological training in addition to training in the diagnosis and treatment of movement disorders.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

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