How is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?

Parkinson’s is generally diagnosed by a primary care physician or internist who may than refer the patient to a neurologist of movement disorder specialist.

There are no standard diagnostic tests for Parkinson’s. Rather, the diagnosis is a clinical diagnosis based on findings of a neurological exam and information provided by the person with Parkinson’s disease.

The doctor may:

  • Observe your facial expressions for animation.
  • Observe your arms and hands at rest for tremors.
  • Gently rotate your neck to see if there is stiffness.
  • Ask you to rise from your chair.
  • Observe your gait while you walk down a hallway.
  • Carefully pull you backwards to observe your balance.
  • How quickly are you able to regain your balance?

The main role of any additional testing is to exclude other diseases that imitate Parkinson’s disease, such as a stroke.

If you are experiencing Parkinson’s-like symptoms, make an appointment with your primary care physician, neurologist, or movement disorder specialist.

The symptoms someone has and how quickly the condition develops will differ from one person to the next. Always consult your doctor to determine if the symptoms you’re experiencing may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease or a sign of other health issues.

Primary Symptoms of Parkinson’s

The symptoms someone has and how quickly the condition develops will differ from one person to the next. Always consult your doctor to determine if the symptoms you’re experiencing may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease or a sign of other health issues.

Slowness of Movement (Bradykinesia)

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease experience a change in spontaneous movement that causes them to move or respond slowly. The face may lack changing facial expressions (masked face).

Tremor

Tremors occur in about 70% of those living with Parkinson’s. Typically, the tremor appears on one side of the body in the hand or foot while relaxed or at rest.

Rigidity

Muscles may fail to relax like normal muscles causing the individual to appear rigid and have a decreased range of motion. Rigidity can cause posture changes. Tightness of the muscles of the body may be painful.

Postural Instability

Loss of some reflexes needed to maintain an upright posture may cause individuals to be unstable when standing. The presence of postural instability increases the likelihood of falling.

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Secondary motor symptoms include:

  • Soft voice
  • Small handwriting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Freezing during walking

Non-motor symptoms of PD include:

  • Constipation
  • Oily skin, flaky red patches near hairline, nose
  • Variable blood pressure
  • Mood changes – anxiety and depression
  • Cognitive changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Excessive or low sex drive
  • Excessive sweating – especially of hands and feet
  • Frequent urination and incontinence
  • Neurogenic Orthostatic Hypotension
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