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How is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?

Preparing for a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can be daunting. Learn how Parkinson’s is diagnosed and what comes after on HealthyPlace.

Do you suspect a Parkinson's disease diagnosis? If you're showing some of the early warning signs of Parkinson's, it's important to schedule a medical exam. Your doctor will then assess your symptoms and confirm whether or not Parkinson's is the cause. It's normal to be nervous about this appointment, but the diagnostic test is relatively straightforward. Find out what to expect from a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, as well as what comes after.

Will I Get a Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis?

It’s important to see your doctor if you notice Parkinson’s disease symptoms over a period of time, especially if they are interfering with your daily life. You will be given a confirmed diagnosis if you meet Parkinson’s disease diagnosis criteria, as long as your symptoms cannot be explained by another condition.

To be diagnosed with Parkinson’s, you must show signs of bradykinesia – a marked slowing of movement and reduced arm swing when walking– as well as one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Muscular rigidity
  • Tremors
  • Postural instability (difficulty standing and sitting up straight)

How Parkinson’s Disease Is Diagnosed

Your doctor will perform a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis test by assessing your genetic history, symptoms and with a neurological and physical examination. If you meet the criteria for Parkinson’s, your doctor may refer you to a neurologist or movement doctor to confirm your diagnosis.

Your doctor may want to perform lab tests to check if there are any other causes for your symptoms. Although imaging tests aren't helpful in diagnosing Parkinson's disease, doctors will often do MRI and CT scans to rule out other conditions.

It can take time to deliver a Parkinson’s disease diagnoses. Doctors will usually arrange follow-up appointments with neurologists to evaluate your symptoms over time. You may also be given dopaminergic medications to see whether Parkinson’s symptoms improve ("Parkinson’s Disease Medication List: Can These Meds Help You?").

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you receive a Parkinson's disease diagnosis, you will understandably have questions for your doctor. Here are some questions you might want to ask to help further your understanding of the condition:

  • What are my Parkinson’s disease treatment options?
  • What are the pros and cons of each medication/ treatment?
  • What kind of support will I need at home?
  • Are there clinical trials I can take part in?
  • What lifestyle modifications should I explore to help me feel better?
  • How can I manage stress related to Parkinson’s disease?
  • Are there any foods, supplements or medications I should avoid?
  • Can you recommend any Parkinson’s support groups?

After a Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis: What Comes Next?

If you receive a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, your doctor will work with you to find the best treatment plan for your needs. Doctors also have a responsibility to communicate their findings to your caregivers to ensure you receive adequate help and support.

A team of medical professionals will also monitor the stages of Parkinson using the Hoehn and Yahr rating scale. Sometimes it takes years for Parkinson’s to progress, but there is no telling how the disorder will affect you on an individual level. Your doctors will work with you to monitor your symptoms and suggest new treatment when appropriate. In the latter stages of Parkinson’s, you may need round-the-clock care.

It’s important to seek help and support after a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, as the condition can take an emotional toll. It's also a good idea to get as informed as possible about your health so that you and your family know what to expect. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but medication and physical therapy can ease symptoms and help you enjoy a better quality of life.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2020, February 9). How is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parkinsons-disease/information/how-is-parkinsons-disease-diagnosed

Last Updated: February 18, 2020

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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