Understanding Parkinson's

Diagnosis

The Path to Diagnosis

Many people notice symptoms years prior to an official Parkinson’s diagnosis. Diagnosing PD can be straightforward but it can also be a process that takes time and many doctor’s visits. It is important to be connected to a healthcare team that you feel is supportive and working with you in this process.

Parkinson’s statistics:

  • Typical age of diagnosis is around 60, but as many as 15% of those affected are diagnosed much younger.
  • More men are known to have Parkinson's disease than women.
  • Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD annually.

Movement Disorder Specialist or Neurologist

Location and insurance can greatly determine what healthcare providers you have access to. For those in more rural locations, the options may be somewhat limited when selecting a physician to manage and treat your Parkinson’s disease. Others may live in areas with multiple providers available to oversee their care.

A Movement Disorder Specialist is a neurologist with two years of additional fellowship training in Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. Working with a Movement Disorder Specialist can be beneficial as these providers have the additional training and experience. A general neurologist may be an appropriate fit to oversee your PD care as well. Patients should feel empowered to ask their neurologist about their background and comfort working with Parkinson’s disease and to request a second opinion or consult for particularly challenging symptoms.

Confirming Diagnosis

There is no one test or report that will definitively identify Parkinson’s disease. Instead the approach may include a series of exams, watching for change over time, a trial of medication, and observation. This process is why it is important to work with a physician you trust and who is experienced working with Parkinson’s disease.

What if it isn't Parkinson's?

In some cases a physician may determine that symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s, but there are other indicators of what is called a Parkinsonism. Quick disease progression or limited response to Parkinson’s medications can be a sign that it is atypical Parkinson’s. A Movement Disorder Specialist can be especially useful in differentiating between these diseases and Parkinson’s.

Examples of such Parkinsonisms include:

Multiple Systems Atrophy (MSA) https://www.multiplesystematrophy.org/about-msa/

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) https://www.psp.org/

Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD) https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/corticobasal-degeneration/

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) https://www.lbda.org/

While treatment and care needs may differ for Parkinsonisms, families and individuals with these diagnoses will find PRO programs to be a welcoming and helpful source for ongoing support and education needs.

Need help locating a Provider?

Support groups are a great place to talk with others and learn about providers that have proven to be particularly knowledgeable in your community. Reaching out to PRO via our HelpLine or an email query is another way to explore your options. Because every person has different needs and criteria, we cannot make a specific recommendation, but will work with you to identify options and help you narrow your focus.

Need help locating a provider?

Support groups are a great place to talk with others and learn about providers that have proven to be particularly knowledgeable in your community. Reaching out to PRO via our HelpLine or an email query is another way to explore your options. Because every person has different needs and criteria, we cannot make a specific recommendation, but will work with you to identify options and help you narrow your focus.