Disease and Movement Disorders Center
Diagnosing Parkinson's Disease
How a Diagnosis is Made
One of several neurologic movement disorders is Parkinson's
disease t that produces similar symptoms.
It is essential that the physician you are considering
has knowledge with all of the different disorders so
that can masquerade as Parkinson's disease.
In some of these diseases people immediately become
totally disabled; in others, the disease progresses
very slowly; and in yet others, illness is chronic (always
present) and may have more rigorous symptoms as time
goes on. Because the natural history, or progression,
of these diseases varies to a great extent, proper diagnosis
is crucial. People need to recognize which disease they
The Neurologic Examination
When performing a neurologic test to
evaluate a patient with a movement disorder, the doctor
takes a medical history and performs a physical assessment.
The doctor enquire the patient and the family members
or friends concerning symptoms and observes the patient,
asking him or her to walk around the room, stand up,
sit down, turn around, and so on.
The neurologic exam is a thorough assessment
of the nervous system. In particular, the neurologist
will notice the aspects of the patient's movement, coordination
Unluckily, there is no diagnostic test
that can confirm Parkinson's disease. Laboratory testing
of the blood of patients with the symptoms typical of
Parkinson's only hardly ever uncovers any abnormality.
Electroencephalograms (EEGs) record
few aspects of brain electrical activity, but they are
not much effective in spotting Parkinson's.
The MRI and CAT scans of the brain
create remarkable and beautiful anatomic pictures.
The MRI and CAT will scans of the brain of people with
Parkinson's disease appear normal and the brain of people
with Parkinson's disease appears normal.
The brain changes that generate neurodegenerative
diseases such as Parkinson's are microscopic, on a chemical
level, and are not discovered by these scans.
With no diagnostic tests to provide
definite answers, physicians must base their diagnosis
of Parkinson's on judgment. Physicians are personally
familiar with the characteristic history and the signs
and symptoms found when investigative a person with
They then have to judge how closely
the history of symptoms as well as the neurologic findings
(from the physical examination) of any definite person
matches those of typical Parkinson's disease. This determination
through the judgment of the doctor (the clinician) is
known as a clinical diagnosis.