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Diagnosis

There is no “one way” to diagnose Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, there are various symptoms and diagnostic tests used in combination. Making an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s — particularly in its early stages — is difficult, but a skilled practitioner can come to a reasoned conclusion that it is PD. It is important to remember that two of the four main symptoms must be present over a period of time for a neurologist to consider a PD diagnosis:

  • Shaking or tremor Involuntary shaking of the hands, arms, legs, jaw or tongue. The typical Parkinson’s tremor is “pill-rolling” – it looks like holding a pill between thumb and forefinger and continuously rolling it around. Some people report an internal tremor, a shaking sensation inside the chest, abdomen or limbs that cannot be seen. Most Parkinson’s tremor is “resting tremor,” which lessens during sleep and when the body part is actively in use.
  • Slowness of movement, called bradykinesia Slowness of movement.
  • Stiffness or rigidity In Parkinson’s, stiffness of the arms or legs beyond what would result from normal aging or arthritis. Some people call it “tightness” in their limbs. of the arms, legs or trunk
  • Trouble with balance and possible falls, also called postural instability Impaired balance and the tendency to fall without explanation, usually when pivoting; a common symptom in the later stages of Parkinson’s.

Often, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is first made by an internist or family physician. Many people seek an additional opinion from a neurologist with experience and specific training in the assessment and treatment of PD — referred to as a movement disorder specialist.

The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends that a person with symptoms resembling those of PD consider making an appointment with a movement disorder specialist A neurologist with extra training (usually a one- or two-year fellowship) in Parkinson’s and other movement disorders.. To find a specialist in your community, call our free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) from Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM ET to 8:00 PM ET.

Page reviewed by Dr. Ryan Barmore, Movement Disorders Fellow at the University of Florida, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.

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