How Parkinsons Disease Is Diagnosed
Diagnosing Parkinsons disease can be complicated because there isnt a specific blood test or screening test that can determine whether or not you have it.
Instead, Parkinsons is diagnosed clinically, which means a doctor will examine you, review your symptoms and medical history, and diagnose accordingly.
Parkinsons disease is a neurological condition that can make movement difficult. If your general practitioner thinks you might have Parkinsons, they may refer you to a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders for a diagnosis.
It can be challenging to catch Parkinsons in the early stages because the symptoms may be too mild to notice or meet the diagnostic criteria. Also, early Parkinsons symptoms are often mistaken for typical signs of aging.
The symptoms of Parkinsons disease are also similar to those of other health conditions, which may be misdiagnosed as Parkinsons at first. Your doctor may suggest specific tests and scans to help eliminate other conditions that can mimic the symptoms of Parkinsons disease.
Exercise And Healthy Eating
Regular exercise is particularly important in helping relieve muscle stiffness, improving your mood, and relieving stress.
You should also try to eat a balanced diet containing all the food groups to give your body the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.
Parkinsons Disease Causes: The Facts
There is no known cause for Parkinsons disease, so sadly there is no way to avoid it. However, Parkinsons disease is found to be more common in men than women. It mostly affects people aged 65 and over. However, early-onset Parkinsons can occur in younger adults.
Scientific research has identified the following possible causes for the disease:
- Genetic factors: The disease can run in families, but Parkinson’s isnt always hereditary. There is no reason to suspect that you will get Parkinsons just because a blood relative has it.
- Low dopamine levels: Dopamine plays an essential role in sending messages to the part of the brain that controls coordination. Those with Parkinsons are reported to have low dopamine levels, making it harder for them to control their movements.
- Low norepinephrine levels: Norepinephrine is another neurotransmitter responsible for controlling automatic bodily functions, such as blood circulation and bowel movements. Parkinsons disease causes the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine to die, leading to problems like fatigue, constipation and low blood pressure .
- Lewy bodies in the brain: Research has found that people with Parkinson’s disease often have clumps of protein, known as Lewy bodies, in their brain. These Lewy bodies can also be linked with other conditions, including Parkinson’s disease dementia.
What Is The Prognosis For Parkinsons Disease
The rate at which Parkinsons progresses varies from patient to patient. Some patients experience its changes over 20 years or more. While others find the disease advances quicker.
Parkinsons is not a fatal disease. However, secondary complications from symptoms may increase falls, blood clots or pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. These are more common in later stages of Parkinsons.
In general, the average life expectancy of Parkinson’s patients is similar to people without the disease.
Environmental Factors And Exposures
Exposure to pesticides and a history of head injury have each been linked with PD, but the risks are modest. Never having smoked cigarettes, and never drinking caffeinated beverages, are also associated with small increases in risk of developing PD.
Low concentrations of urate in the blood is associated with an increased risk of PD.
Different medical drugs have been implicated in cases of parkinsonism. Drug-induced parkinsonism is normally reversible by stopping the offending agent. Drugs include:
Recommended Reading: Can Parkinson’s Change Your Personality
If Its Not Parkinsons Disease What Could It Be
Here are some possibilities:
Side effects of medication: Certain drugs used for mental illnesses like psychosis or major depression can bring on symptoms like the ones caused by Parkinsonâs disease. Anti-nausea drugs can, too, but they typically happen on both sides of your body at the same time. They usually go away a few weeks after you stop taking the medication.
Essential tremor: This is a common movement disorder that causes shaking, most often in your hands or arms. Itâs more noticeable when youâre using them, like when you eat or write. Tremors caused by Parkinsonâs disease usually happen when youâre not moving.
Progressive supranuclear palsy: People with this rare disease can have problems with balance, which may cause them to fall a lot. They donât tend to have tremors, but they do have blurry vision and issues with eye movement. These symptoms usually get worse faster than with Parkinson’s disease.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus : This happens when a certain kind of fluid builds up in your brain and causes pressure. People with NPH usually have trouble walking, a loss of bladder control, and dementia.
How It All Fits Together
Diagnosing Parkinsons disease can be tricky. The process relies heavily on your doctors judgment. In addition, the causes and risk factors of Parkinsons are not entirely clear yet, which contributes to the difficulty in diagnosing this condition.
However, there have been efforts to try and detect this disease earlier. For instance, clinicians have started focusing more on prodromal symptoms, which are early symptoms that appear before movement-related difficulties begin.
These symptoms include:
- Loss of smell, which can sometimes occur years before other symptoms
- Chronic constipation, without any other explanation
- Rapid eye movement behavior disorder, which causes sleep disturbances
Also Check: Parkinson’s Ribbon Color
Testing For Parkinsons Disease
There is no lab or imaging test that is recommended or definitive for Parkinsons disease. However, in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an imaging scan called the DaTscan. This technique allows doctors to see detailed pictures of the brains dopamine system.
A DaTscan involves an injection of a small amount of a radioactive drug and a machine called a single-photon emission computed tomography scanner, similar to an MRI.
The drug binds to dopamine transmitters in the brain, showing where in the brain dopaminergic neurons are.
The results of a DaTscan cant show that you have Parkinsons, but they can help your doctor confirm a diagnosis or rule out a Parkinsons mimic.
Response To Parkinsons Drugs
After examining you, and depending on the severity of your symptoms, your specialist may suggest you take medication for Parkinsons. If your symptoms improve after taking Parkinsons medication for a few weeks or months, your specialist may confirm a Parkinsons diagnosis. However, some people with other forms of parkinsonism will also respond well to these drugs.
Your specialist may suggest you have a scan to help make a diagnosis. However, scans alone cant make a definite diagnosis of Parkinsons, so they are not commonly used.
You May Like: What Essential Oils Help Parkinson’s
Will Dogs Be Diagnosing Parkinsons In Future
Weve been asked this a lot in the last week! This research is still in its early stages and we hope that it will lead to important new tests that can detect and monitor Parkinsons whether these tests involve dogs directly or something more portable is yet to be determined. So watch this space!
For more information about Parkinsons and its symptoms, or if you think you may have the condition, visit our website:
Surgery For People With Parkinsons Disease
Deep brain stimulation surgery is an option to treat Parkinsons disease symptoms, but it is not suitable for everyone. There are strict criteria and guidelines on who can be a candidate for surgery, and this is something that only your doctor and you can decide. Surgery may be considered early or late in the progression of Parkinsons. When performing deep-brain stimulation surgery, the surgeon places an electrode in the part of the brain most effected by Parkinsons disease. Electrical impulses are introduced to the brain, which has the effect of normalising the brains electrical activity reducing the symptoms of Parkinsons disease. The electrical impulse is introduced using a pacemaker-like device called a stimulator. Thalamotomy and pallidotomy are operations where the surgeon makes an incision on part of the brain. These surgeries aim to alleviate some forms of tremor or unusual movement, but they are rarely performed now.
Recommended Reading: Freddie Roach Medical Condition
What Are Lewy Bodies
Lewy bodies are abnormal protein deposits found in the brain. Researchers do not know exactly why Lewy bodies form or what role they may play in Parkinson’s disease, but they seem to be linked to certain types of dementia associated with both PD and Alzheimer’s disease. Lewy body dementia is a degenerative disease and symptoms range from parkinsonian symptoms such as bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, and shuffling walk, to symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease . Symptoms may fluctuate, even from day to day. In later stages patients may develop hallucinations.
What Does The Body’s Nervous System Control
The body’s central nervous system controls the five senses. The CNS is made up of your brain and spinal cord. The brain is what interprets our external environment, houses our thoughts and ideas, and controls our body movements. It acts like a central computer for our five senses, interpreting information from our eyes , ears , nose , tongue , and skin , as well as other sensations from internal organs such as the stomach. The spinal cord is the connection from the body to the brain, transmitting the signals our body receives to the brain, which then interprets them to make sense of our world. When the spinal cord is injured, this interrupts that communication.
You May Like: Non Tremor Dominant Parkinson’s
Support For People With Parkinsons Disease
Early access to a multidisciplinary support team is important. These teams may include doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, dietitians, social workers and specialist nurses. Members of the team assess the person with Parkinsons disease and identify potential difficulties and possible solutions.There are a limited number of multidisciplinary teams in Victoria that specialise in Parkinsons disease management. But generalist teams are becoming more aware of how to help people with Parkinsons disease.
Where Did The Idea Come From
You may already have heard the amazing story of Joy Milne, the lady who kickstarted this area of research. Joy has an unusually sensitive sense of smell, and noticed a change in her husband Les scent several years before he was diagnosed with Parkinsons.
Initially Joy did not realise the change in smell and Parkinsons were connected. It was only when she and Les attended their local Parkinsons UK group that she realised that other people with Parkinsons seemed to carry the same scent and she started to wonder.
As a result, we launched a study at the University of Manchester in 2015 which is studying the chemicals present on the surface of the skin. The research aims to identify differences between people with Parkinsons and those without that could be harnessed to develop new tests that could both diagnose and potentially monitor the condition.
Recommended Reading: Parkinson Non Motor Symptoms
How To Spot Symptoms In Yourself Or Someone You Love
Most diagnoses of Parkinsons disease come after age 60, but about 4 percent of diagnoses come before age 50. What signs of Parkinsons should you watch out for in yourself or someone you love?
Diagnosing Parkinsons Someâ¯Parkinsons diseases symptomsâ¯are well known, like the tremors that boxing great Muhammad Ali experienced. But Parkinsons is often difficult to diagnose when its in its early stages, and no blood or imaging test can confirm if someone has the disease.
So how is Parkinsons diagnosed? A healthcare provider will take a medical history and look for signs. In addition to slow movementcalled bradykinesiaeither stiffness or tremors must also be present. The HCP may also use a SPECT test that tracks the chemical dopamine in the brain. But your HCP needs to know to look for Parkinsons, and thats where you come in. Tell your HCP if youve noticed any of these early warning signs.
Early warning signs of Parkinsons disease 1. Tremors. If one of your fingers, a foot, or part of the jaw or face shakes while youre at rest, that could be an early sign of Parkinsons. Tremors usually start on one side of the body, and eventually progress to the whole body as the disease progresses.
5. Changes in voice.â¯A small 2011 Czech study showed that up to 78 percent of people with early, undiagnosed Parkinsons disease have some kind of vocal impairment. It often takes the form of a softer voice, or could be a roughness of tone, monotone or a vocal tremor.
Medicines For Parkinson’s Disease
Medicines prescribed for Parkinson’s include:
- Drugs that increase the level of dopamine in the brain
- Drugs that affect other brain chemicals in the body
- Drugs that help control nonmotor symptoms
The main therapy for Parkinson’s is levodopa, also called L-dopa. Nerve cells use levodopa to make dopamine to replenish the brain’s dwindling supply. Usually, people take levodopa along with another medication called carbidopa. Carbidopa prevents or reduces some of the side effects of levodopa therapysuch as nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and restlessnessand reduces the amount of levodopa needed to improve symptoms.
People with Parkinson’s should never stop taking levodopa without telling their doctor. Suddenly stopping the drug may have serious side effects, such as being unable to move or having difficulty breathing.
Other medicines used to treat Parkinsons symptoms include:
- Dopamine agonists to mimic the role of dopamine in the brain
- MAO-B inhibitors to slow down an enzyme that breaks down dopamine in the brain
- COMT inhibitors to help break down dopamine
- Amantadine, an old antiviral drug, to reduce involuntary movements
- Anticholinergic drugs to reduce tremors and muscle rigidity
Don’t Miss: Life Expectancy After Parkinson Diagnosis
Physical And Neurological Examination
Your doctor will conduct a physical and neurological examination. This can involve observing your behavior, movements, and mental state and conducting tests or asking you to perform certain exercises.
These are some of the symptoms of Parkinsons your doctor can determine visually:
- Fewer spontaneous movements or hand gestures
- Reduced frequency of blinking
- Tremors in your hands while they are at rest, often only in one hand
- Hunched posture or forward lean while walking
- Stiff movements
These are some of the exercises your doctor may ask you to do to evaluate your movements, balance, and coordination:
- Opening and closing your fist
- Tapping your fingers, toes, and heels
- Holding your arms out in front of you
- Moving your finger from one point to another
- Rotating your wrists or ankles
- Standing from a chair
Symptoms Of Parkinsons Disease
Parkinson’s disease has four main symptoms:
- Tremor in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- Stiffness of the limbs and trunk
- Slowness of movement
- Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls
Symptoms of Parkinsons and the rate of progression differ among individuals. Sometimes people dismiss early symptoms of Parkinson’s as the effects of normal aging. In most cases, there are no medical tests to definitively detect the disease, so it can be difficult to diagnose accurately.
Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are subtle and occur gradually. For example, affected people may feel mild tremors or have difficulty getting out of a chair. They may notice that they speak too softly, or that their handwriting is slow and looks cramped or small. Friends or family members may be the first to notice changes in someone with early Parkinson’s. They may see that the person’s face lacks expression and animation, or that the person does not move an arm or leg normally.
People with Parkinson’s often develop a parkinsonian gait that includes a tendency to lean forward, small quick steps as if hurrying forward, and reduced swinging of the arms. They also may have trouble initiating or continuing movement.
Who Are More Likely To Develop Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease affects both men and women, though about 50% more men are affected than women. The reasons for this are unclear but there are theories that estrogen may cause women to develop the disease less frequently, and when they do, they seem to get a milder form of it. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates about 50,000 people are diagnosed with PD each year in the U.S. However, this number may be higher due to the fact that many people in the early stages of PD assume their symptoms are due to aging and do not seek medical attention. Complicating the diagnosis is that symptoms of Parkinson’s resemble other diseases and there is no one definitive test to diagnose it.
Early Signs Of Parkinson’s
Early physical signs include the common motor symptoms: tremor, muscle rigidity and slowness. They may also include the following:
- Symptoms starting on one side of the body
- Change in facial expression
- Failure to swing one arm when walking
- Stooped posture
- Loss of sense of smell
- Depression or anxiety
Some of these symptoms are quite common and by no means exclusive to Parkinsons, so if you have some of them, it does not mean you have Parkinsons.
Also Check: Levodopa Cost
Blood Tests And Spinal Fluid Tests
A blood test or spinal fluid test cant be used to diagnose Parkinsons. But they can be used to search for certain proteins that indicate you may have another neurodegenerative condition with similar symptoms.
The presence of elevated levels of a nerve protein called neurofilament light chain protein may indicate that you have another movement disorder, such as:
- multiple system atrophy
- corticobasal degeneration