A test that can give a definite diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease does not exist. Commonly, your family doctor will refer you to a neurologist if your symptoms suggest Parkinson’s disease. A neurologist will assess your symptoms and their acuteness and make a provisional diagnosis.
One of the most common diagnostic methods for Parkinsons is to prescribe anti-Parkinsons drugs for you to take and monitor your response. Most doctors consider a positive improvement of symptoms when you take medication to combat the symptoms to be positive proof that you have Parkinsons disease.
Some doctors may order brain scans to help diagnose Parkinsons disease. The brain scans can pick up abnormal brain patterns, but there are no visible markers to verify if theyre due to Parkinsons or some other disorder.
As in Alzheimers disease, the only proof positive of Parkinsons disease is one that can only be found during an autopsy the presence of microscopic brain structures called Lewy bodies. Fascinatingly, forensics doctors have found Lewy bodies in many older adults without diagnosed Parkinsons disease, leading some to believe that everyone would develop Parkinsons if they lived long enough. This may help explain the occurrence of Parkinsons disease in senior adults.
A neurologist will evaluate you for the five major symptoms of Parkinsons disease tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, freezing and postural instability. Bradykinesia is slow movements, and postural instability suggests a loss of balance. Typically, if you have two of the five symptoms and one of them is either tremors or rigidity, the neurologist will make a diagnosis of Parkinsonism. If you have either tremors or rigidity alone, hell usually diagnose probable parkinsonism, and if you have either freezing, slow movements or bradykinesia, the diagnosis will be possible parkinsonism.
One of the first things the doctor should do is eliminate other possible causes. Medically induced parkinsonism isnt uncommon, and since it was first discovered that some medications can cause symptoms similar to Parkinsons disease, the list of those medications has continued to grow. If youre under 50, he may want to run tests to be sure that you dont have a metabolic disorder called Wilsons disease which causes comparable symptoms, but is caused by a disfunction in copper use in your body. He may decide to do an MRI, which can eliminate further possible causes for your symptoms before he makes a final diagnosis.
Staging diseases is a concept borrowed from cancer terminology. It refers to how far the disease has advanced, and usually establishes the best options for treatment. In Parkinsons disease, there are five stages. Your doctor will discuss with you the various treatment options that make the most sense for the stage of Parkinsons disease that you are diagnosed with.