How is Parkinson’s diagnosed?

Parkinson’s is not always simple to diagnose, as every case of Parkinson’s is unique and, as a neurological disorder, the symptoms are similar to many other disorders of the brain. Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases are different.We suggest to contact an experienced neurologist for an accurate diagnosis. When making a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, the doctor carefully observes the symptoms during a physical examination, and listens to the person’s own experiences of their condition.

The 4 main symptoms of Parkinson’s are

  • slowness of movement,
  • stiffness,
  • tremor
  • loss of balance,

and it is the particular combination of these symptoms that may lead the doctor to make a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

Other symptoms

CNS (central nervous system)-related symptoms

  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Pain
  • Speech and facial expression

Behavioural and psychological symptoms

  • Sleep trouble
  • Fatigue
  • Mood/depression
  • Anxiety
  • Memory/Thought

The first signs of Parkinson’s may be noticed as an

  • increased difficulty with delicate movements such as writing, sewing, shaving, etc.

Although Parkinson’s affects the brain, a brain scan is not usually able to positively identify Parkinson’s and the changes that it produces in the brain. However, CT or MRI scans (which produce pictures of different sections of the brain) can be used to eliminate other disorders, which may be causing the symptoms. If the scan looks normal, then it is possible – but not definite – that the symptoms are caused by Parkinson’s. Similarly, types of brain scan called PET and SPECT, which can visualise dopamine in the brain, may be used to support a diagnosis of Parkinson’s and eliminate other causes – but again, these scans cannot prove that a person has Parkinson’s.

For this reason, diagnosis usually relies upon a physical examination and observation of symptoms. In addition, there may be some extra tests such as X-rays and blood tests, which can help to show that the symptoms are not being caused by any other disorders.
If a person does have Parkinson’s, then progress will be assessed at regular intervals using one or more rating scales. These scales involve the doctor testing and observing the person’s actions, and marking this down as a score. One of the most commonly used scales is the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UParkinson’sRS), which scores performance in all areas of movement and behaviour. This sort of rating helps the doctor to monitor the progress of the person with Parkinson’s, and to deliver the most appropriate type of treatment. Other scales that are used to help assess Parkinson’s are the Hoehn & Yahr scale, which classes Parkinson’s as being at one of five stages, and the Schwab & England scale, which rates the individual on their level of independence.