There are no lab tests to definitively diagnose
. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and do a thorough physical exam.
A neurological exam will include a range of tests to evaluate your strength, coordination, balance, and other aspects, such as: Muscle toneRapid alternating movementsGait, posturePostural stabilityQuickness and precision of movementObservation of a tremor (during rest or activity)
A mini-mental status test may be done. Activities of daily living may also be evaluated, such as dressing, cutting and eating food, swallowing, hygiene, walking, and falls.
There are four symptoms that are considered hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease. These symptoms include: Tremor while at restRigiditySlowness of movement (bradykinesia)Postural instability
Sometimes, not all of these hallmark symptoms are present. If that is the case, your doctor may examine you every few months to check on your symptoms.
Parkinson's disease may also cause: Blank facial expressionDecreased eye blinkingStooped postureDepressionSleep disturbancesShuffling gaitDifficulty with initiating movementDifficulty rising from a sitting positionDifficulties with activities of daily livingVoice changesSwallowing difficulties and droolingChanges in handwritingLoss of smell
If your doctor has questions about the cause of your symptoms, you may be given tests to try to eliminate the possibility of other disorders. These tests may include: Blood testsUrine testsMRI scanCT scan
Your doctor may also give you a trial of levodopa, a medication that increases the amount of dopamine your brain produces. A positive response to this medication may help to confirm the diagnosis.
Your doctor may also have imaging tests done, such as: SPECT scan—You will be given an injection of a substance that will make the pictures of your brain clearer. You will lie on a table, and a camera-like object will slowly rotate around you. This test may take about 90 minutes or longer. Your doctor may choose to use a specific type of scan, called dopamine transporter scan (DATscan), to evaluate your condition.
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http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 27, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2013.
Should I get a DaTscan or PET scan to confirm my diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease? National Parkinson Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.parkinson.org/Patients/Patients---On-The-Blog/February-2011/Should-I-get-a-DaTscan-or-PET-scan-to-confirm-my-d. Updated February 1, 2011. Accessed Spetember 5, 2013.
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http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Wippold FJ, Cornelius RS, et al. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria for dementia and movement disorders. Available at: http://www.acr.org/~/media/ACR/Documents/AppCriteria/Diagnostic/DementiaAndMovementDisorders.pdf. Updated 2014. Accessed September 3, 2014.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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