Can doctors measure the severity of Parkinson's disease?

Doctors can use two scales to help them gauge the severity of Parkinson's disease. They are the Hoehn and Yahr Staging Scale and Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale.

The Hoehn and Yahr scale describes the severity of Parkinson's symptoms in five stages:

  • Stage 1 - In this stage, symptoms are on just one side of the body
  • Stage 2 - As the disease progresses, there are symptoms on both sides of the body, but balance is not yet impaired.
  • Stage 3 - In the third stage, balance impairment and disability has begun.
  • Stage 4 - In stage four, the disability is severe, but the person still can stand and walk without help.
  • Stage 5 - In the final stage, the person cannot walk or stand, and must remain in bed, or a wheelchair.

The Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale track functions a variety of categories, including:

  • Depression, intellectual impairment, motivation
  • Activities of daily living including swallowing, speech, cutting food, dressing, hygiene, walking and handwriting
  • Motor skills including facial expression, tremor, posture, walk, speech and rigidity
  • Each area is divided into functions and each function is rated on 0 to 4 scale, with 0 being normal and 4 representing significant problems. There is a total of 199 possible points, with 0 meaning no disability and 199 being total disability.

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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.