Parkinsons Disease Vs Parkinsonism: Whats The Difference
The recent death of President George H.W. Bush, who had been diagnosed with vascular parkinsonism towards the end of his life, placed this disease in the media limelight. Generally, there is a lot of confusion about Parkinsons disease and parkinsonism and many of you have asked me to clarify this distinction.
What Is Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsonism is an umbrella term used to cover a range of conditions that share similar symptoms to Parkinson’s.
Some, including healthcare professionals and people living with the condition, will say Parkinsons disease, or PD for short.
We call it Parkinsons. We dont use the word disease because some people with Parkinsons have told us it sounds negative, or like an infectious illness. But unlike the flu or measles, you can’t catch Parkinson’s from someone.
We don’t yet know exactly why people get Parkinson’s. Researchers think it’s a combination of age, genetic, and environmental factors that cause the dopamine-producing nerve cells to die. But they agree Parkinson’s is not infectious, so we avoid the term disease.
What Are The Causes
The cause of Parkinsons disease is not fully understood, but scientists believe there is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some people with Parkinsons disease have a family history, but most cases occur in people without a family history.
Environmental factors that may increase the risk of Parkinsons include exposure to pesticides and other toxins, head injuries, and certain infections.
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Clinical Trials For Parkinsons
A number of clinical trials investigating the cause of Parkinsons, how the disease progresses, and new medications are also underway.
One ongoing study involves the use of a molecular medication that can cross the blood-brain barrier to target early Parkinsons to stop the progression of the disease to later stages.
No home remedies can cure or reverse Parkinsons disease development or progress.
The following home remedies are being studied as possible promising therapies for Parkinsons disease:
- H2 water. H2 water is water with added hydrogen gas. Its being examined in experimental trials as a potential way to
Parkinsons Syndrome Vs Parkinsons Disease
In a recent poll of individuals with Parkinsons disease, more than one in four participants reported having been misdiagnosed. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is fundamental to receiving appropriate and effective treatment however, many conditions can mimic Parkinsons disease.
Here is a quick breakdown of Parkinsons syndrome vs. Parkinsons disease.
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Whats The Difference Between Dementia With Lewy Bodies And Parkinsons
In dementia with Lewy bodies, dementia always appears first. There can also be changes in alertness as well as visual hallucinations. However, because of the presence of Lewy bodies throughout the entire brain, characteristics of this disease not only include cognitive characteristics, but also physical, sleep, and behavioral changes. As the disease progresses, the motor symptoms common to Parkinsons such as tremor, slowness, stiffness, and walking and balance problems will appear.
For more information on dementia with Lewy bodies, visit www.lbda.org.
Parkinsons Disease: Causes Symptoms And Treatments
Parkinsons disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.
Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking. They may also have mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory difficulties, and fatigue.
While virtually anyone could be at risk for developing Parkinsons, some research studies suggest this disease affects more men than women. Its unclear why, but studies are underway to understand factors that may increase a persons risk. One clear risk is age: Although most people with Parkinsons first develop the disease after age 60, about 5% to 10% experience onset before the age of 50. Early-onset forms of Parkinsons are often, but not always, inherited, and some forms have been linked to specific gene mutations.
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How Is Parkinsons Diagnosed
Doctors use your medical history and physical examination to diagnose Parkinson’s disease . No blood test, brain scan or other test can be used to make a definitive diagnosis of PD.
Researchers believe that in most people, Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Certain environmental exposures, such as pesticides and head injury, are associated with an increased risk of PD. Still, most people have no clear exposure that doctors can point to as a straightforward cause. The same goes for genetics. Certain genetic mutations are linked to an increased risk of PD. But in the vast majority of people, Parkinsons is not directly related to a single genetic mutation. Learning more about the genetics of Parkinsons is one of our best chances to understand more about the disease and discover how to slow or stop its progression.
Aging is the greatest risk factor for Parkinsons, and the average age at diagnosis is 60. Still, some people get PD at 40 or younger.
Men are diagnosed with Parkinsons at a higher rate than women and whites more than other races. Researchers are studying these disparities to understand more about the disease and health care access and to improve inclusivity across care and research.
Aging is the greatest risk factor for Parkinsons, and the average age at diagnosis is 60. Still, some people get PD at 40 or younger.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation has made finding a test for Parkinsons disease one of our top priorities.
What Is Parkinsons Syndrome
As mentioned above, Parkinsons syndrome is a general term that refers to any condition that causes the types of movement problems observed in Parkinsons disease. In other words, while Parkinsons disease is the most common cause of Parkinsons syndrome, many other conditions can cause Parkinsons syndrome. These include:
Other causes include:
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How Fast Do Parkinsons Symptoms Develop
In most cases, symptoms change slowly, with substantive progression taking place over the space of many months or years. Many people with PD have symptoms for at least a year or two before a diagnosis is actually made. The longer symptoms are present, the easier it is to predict how a person with PD will do over time.
Contraindicated Drugs For Parkinson’s Patients
Several medications should not be taken by Parkinsons patients because they alter the brains dopamine system. Always let your neurologist know before you have surgery, so he or she can work with your medical team to keep your Parkinsons in control. View a list of drugs that Parkinsons patients should not take.
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How Is Parkinsonism Diagnosed
You should be referred to a Parkinsons specialist for the diagnosis of any parkinsonism. They may wish to explore different things before giving you a diagnosis.
Your specialist will look at your medical history, ask you about your symptoms and do a medical examination.
Telling the difference between types of parkinsonism isnt always easy, for the following reasons:
- The first symptoms of the different forms of parkinsonism are so similar.
- In many cases, parkinsonism develops gradually. Symptoms that allow your doctor to make a specific diagnosis may only appear as your condition progresses.
- Everyone with parkinsonism is different and has different symptoms.
One of the most useful tests to find out what sort of parkinsonism you may have is to see how you respond to treatment.
If your specialist thinks you have idiopathic Parkinsons, theyll expect you to have a good response to Parkinsons drugs such as levodopa . A good response means that your symptoms will improve. Sometimes, it will only be clear that youve responded to medication when the drug is reduced or stopped, and your symptoms become more obvious again.
If you dont have any response to Parkinsons medication, your specialist will have to look again at your diagnosis.
If you have both unusual symptoms and no response to Parkinsons drugs, this doesnt automatically mean you have another form of parkinsonism. But it will make your specialist want to reconsider your diagnosis.
Current tests available include:
How To Take Care Of Myself Or Manage Symptoms
Parkinsonism refers to a wide range of conditions and diseases with similar effects and symptoms. Most of these diseases and conditions are severe and have a high risk of complications when theres a delay in diagnosing and treating them.
Because many of these conditions are so severe and need diagnosing and treating sooner rather than later, you shouldn’t try to self-diagnose or treat parkinsonism. If you think you have a form of parkinsonism, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible. They can help you by determining if you have one of these conditions, or they can refer you to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
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When Should I See My Healthcare Provider
You should see your healthcare provider as recommended or if you notice changes in your symptoms, especially if the symptoms start to interfere with your life and routine. You should also see your provider if you notice any changes in the effectiveness of your medication.
When should I go to ER?
Your healthcare provider can give you guidance and information on signs or symptoms that mean you need to go to the hospital or get medical attention. In general, you should get medical attention if you fall, especially when you lose consciousness or might have an injury to your head, neck, chest, back or abdomen.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Parkinsonism is a term that covers a wide range of conditions that affect your ability to move and live independently. While these conditions all share certain similarities, they also can have major differences from each other. If youre diagnosed with parkinsonism, its important to talk to your healthcare provider about what condition you have , and what that diagnosis means for you. Not all parkinsonism conditions are the same, so understanding your specific case can make a big difference in managing it and how it affects your life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/15/2022.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.Policy
Is There Any Cure Or Treatment
There is no known cure for Parkinsons disease, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for Parkinsons, and the most effective treatment plan will depend on the individuals symptoms and needs. These treatments include:
Medications Medications can help manage the symptoms of Parkinsons and may include:
monoamine oxidase inhibitors
and catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitors.
Physical Therapy Physical therapy and occupational therapy can help improve mobility, balance, and coordination and may include exercises to improve strength and flexibility, as well as assistive devices such as canes and walkers.
Surgery In some cases, surgery may be an option to help manage the symptoms of Parkinsons disease. One common surgery is deep brain stimulation, which involves the implantation of electrodes in the brain to help control tremors and other movement symptoms.
Alternative Treatments Several alternative treatments may be helpful for people with Parkinsons disease, including acupuncture, massage, and herbal remedies. However, speaking with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment is essential, as some alternative therapies may interact with medications or have other risks.
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Diagnosis Of Parkinsons Disease
There are currently no blood or laboratory tests to diagnose non-genetic cases of Parkinsons. Doctors usually diagnose the disease by taking a persons medical history and performing a neurological examination. If symptoms improve after starting to take medication, its another indicator that the person has Parkinsons.
A number of disorders can cause symptoms similar to those of Parkinsons disease. People with Parkinsons-like symptoms that result from other causes, such as multiple system atrophy and dementia with Lewy bodies, are sometimes said to have parkinsonism. While these disorders initially may be misdiagnosed as Parkinsons, certain medical tests, as well as response to drug treatment, may help to better evaluate the cause. Many other diseases have similar features but require different treatments, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible.
How Do I Take Care Of Myself
If you have parkinsonism, it’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s guidance on caring for yourself and managing this condition. They are the best source of information about how your specific condition will affect you and what you can do to help yourself.
In general, you should do the following:
- Take your medication as prescribed. Taking your medications if your provider prescribes any can make a huge difference in the symptoms of parkinsonism. You should also talk to your provider if you notice side effects or start to feel like your medications aren’t as effective.
- See your provider as recommended. Your healthcare provider will set up a schedule for you to see them. These visits are especially important to help manage your conditions, find the right medications and dosages, and minimize any side effects.
- Dont ignore or avoid symptoms. Parkinsonism can cause a wide range of symptoms, many of which are treatable by treating the condition or the symptoms themselves. It’s also important to tell your provider about symptoms, even minor ones. Many parkinsonism conditions are easily mistaken for others, so telling your provider about all your symptoms can sometimes help avoid an incorrect diagnosis.
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How Parkinsonism Differs From Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is one of many types of parkinsonism. Its caused by a loss of cells in the part of your brain that produces the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Parkinsons disease and the different types of parkinsonism progress in different ways. Some may progress more rapidly than Parkinsons disease. Others, like secondary parkinsonism, may be reversible.
The conditions also respond differently to treatments. For instance, someone who has a type of parkinsonism may not respond to the drug levodopa, which is commonly used for Parkinsons disease.
It can be hard to tell the difference between types of parkinsonism. Heres a look at some of the identified categories of parkinsonism with their typical symptoms and treatments.
- involuntary muscle contractions
No treatment has been found to slow the progression of corticobasal syndrome. Parkinsons drugs are generally ineffective but may help manage stiffness in some people.
Diffuse Lewy Body Disease
Diffuse Lewy body disease is a spectrum of diseases involving dementia and motor symptoms, and the second most common cause of dementia. Because the dementia is similar to that of Alzheimers, and other symptoms imitate Parkinsons disease, the disease can be difficult to diagnose. However, patients with DLBD have hallucinations and are very sensitive to antipsychotic medications. DLBD is more common in men than women.
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What Are Atypical Parkinsonian Disorders
Atypical Parkinsonian disorders are progressive diseases that present with some of the signs and symptoms of Parkinsons disease, but that generally do not respond well to drug treatment with levodopa. They are associated with abnormal protein buildup within brain cells.
The term refers to several conditions, each affecting particular parts of the brain and showing a characteristic course:
- Dementia with Lewy bodies, characterized by an abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein protein in brain cells
- Progressive supranuclear palsy, involving tau protein buildup affecting the frontal lobes, brainstem, cerebellum and substantia nigra
- Multiple system atrophy, another synucleinopathy that affects the autonomic nervous system , substantia nigra and at times the cerebellum
- Corticobasal syndrome, a rare tauopathy that typically affects one side of the body more than the other and makes it difficult for patients to see and navigate through space
Parkinsonian Disorders And Levodopa
Various parkinsonian disorders can be categorized based on how they respond to the medication called levodopa. PD tends to respond well to levodopa therapies, while most atypical parkinsonian disorders do not. Sometimes people with parkinsonian symptoms who do not respond well to levodopa may be referred to as having parkinsonism. This can be confusing since parkinsonism technically refers to a set of movement symptoms, rather than a specific diagnosis.
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Whats The Difference Between Multiple System Atrophy And Parkinsons
Parkinsons and MSA both affect the movement control system and the involuntary autonomic control system and early symptoms can make a differential diagnosis a challenge. MSA, however, tends to progress faster than Parkinsons balance problems and a stooped posture happen earlier and get worse more quickly with MSA and autonomic functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, sweating, bladder function, and sexual problems are more severe in people with MSA.
For more information on multiple symptom atrophy, read this fact sheet.
Movement Disorders Similar To Parkinsons
Conditions causing excess movement or decreased movement that are sometimes associated with Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms include:
What Movement Disorder Could I Have?
When making a Parkinson’s diagnosis, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms, perform a careful neurological exam, and, if necessary, carry out further tests to rule out other movement disorders.
Your symptoms may be caused by a movement disorder other than Parkinson’s disease if:
- You display Parkinson’s disease symptoms and features that are characteristic of an additional movement disorder.
- The results of a brain imaging study or laboratory test, such as a blood test, confirm the presence of another movement disorder.
- Your symptoms do not respond to Parkinson’s disease medication.
Because movement disorders are not all treated the same way, it is important to get a proper diagnosis as early as possible so you can formulate the right treatment plan with your doctor.
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Treatments Other Than Medication Or Surgery
Staying active and pursuing therapy can help you adjust your lifestyle with Parkinson’s disease. We offer a full range of therapy and other services to help you, including:
- Exercise, physical, occupational and recreational therapy to keep you mobile, living your life and doing things your enjoy
- Nutrition and speech therapy to help with throat and swallowing issues.
- Mental health support and social services to treat depression and anxiety stemming from disease-related challenges, such as lifestyle changes.
Learn more about the nonsurgical- and nonmedication-based Parkinson’s disease programs we offer. Talk to your care team about these and additional options.
We will also provide you with resources to manage your Parkinson’s Disease including new patient orientation, classes, support groups and links to national associations.