Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressing, degenerative disease related to the brain’s loss of the chemical dopamine, which controls coordinated muscle movement. More than 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by:
- Tremor or trembling of the arms, legs, jaw and face
- Stiff limbs and trunk
- Slow movement (bradykinesia)
- Balance and coordination problems
Other common symptoms include a shuffling gait, lack of facial expression, stooped posture and difficulty changing position. Non-motor symptoms include depression, fearfulness, sleep disturbance, difficulty sleeping and urinary urgency.
Parkinson’s is more likely to affect men than women, with an average age of onset of 60. Individuals with a parent or sibling with Parkinson’s are twice is likely to develop the disease, but researchers believe the link is both genetic and environmental.
The early symptoms of Parkinson’s sometimes mimic other illnesses, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and have a complete neurological examination with an accurate medical history. Your doctor may need to observe your symptoms over time to reach a conclusive diagnosis.
To eliminate a diagnosis of other diseases or conditions, your doctor may also order additional tests, including:
- Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) — to rule out a tumor or stroke
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — to rule out a neuromuscular disease