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How is Parkinson's disease diagnosed?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Parkinson's can be difficult to diagnose because there is no test to provide a clear answer. Often doctors base diagnosis off a neurological exam and your family and medical history. Going over your history can help rule out other reasons you may be experiencing Parkinson's-like symptoms. Other disorders, medication, toxins, head traumas, or strokes could produce similar symptoms, so ruling those out is important. Then a doctor will likely ask you to walk around so they can examine your coordination.

Beyond that, diagnosis is dependent on your symptoms. A doctor will look for at least two of the common symptoms. Those symptoms should occur either only on one side of your body, or more pronounced on one side. Tremors should worsen when the body is rest. Finally, you may be placed on a medication (levodopa) to see how your body reacts. If you see dramatic results, Parkinson's is likely the cause.

There is no single test to diagnose Parkinson's disease. The condition is generally diagnosed by ruling out diseases with the same symptoms. MRI scans and blood tests can rule out other diseases. People who exhibit at least two of the four hallmark symptoms and who response to the drug levodopa are said to have Parkinson's.

Doctors can usually diagnose Parkinson's disease by talking to the person about his or her symptoms and seeing the problems he or she has. There’s no test that tells for sure it’s Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes the doctors do a scan that looks inside the brain to see if there’s enough dopamine.

Continue Learning about Parkinson's Disease Diagnosis

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.