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Can You Have Parkinsonism Without Having PD?

YES. Parkinsonism is a broad, inclusive term, which means that the patient has symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease (like tremor, rigidity, slowness of movements and balance problems), although a doctor is not sure whether those symptoms are due to neurodegeneration of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra.

A number of patients with Parkinsonism do not have PD. Only 85% of all Parkinsonian syndromes are due to Parkinson’s disease. Certain medications, vascular problems, and other neurodegenerative diseases can cause the symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. In fact, early in the disease process it may be difficult to know whether a patient has typical Parkinson’s disease or a syndrome that mimics it. The development of additional symptoms and the subsequent course of the disease generally points to the correct diagnosis.

Did you know that you could have symptoms of Parkinson’s without having PD?
A variety of blood tests and a brain scan will be done to rule out other conditions.

Neurodegenerative diseases causing Parkinsonism are commonly grouped together under the category of Atypical Parkinsonism or Parkinsonism – plus syndromes. The plus part means, that in addition to expected symptoms of PD, patients have some atypical symptoms as well. Atypical Parkinsonism should be considered particularly in patients with:

  • Poor response to dopamine
  • Early loss of balance
  • Prominent intellectual changes (dementia)
  • Rapid onset or progression 
  • Conspicuous postural hypotension, urinary and bowel incontinence
  • Little or no tremor.

Page reviewed by Dr. Joash Lazarus, NPF Movement Disorders Fellow, Department of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine.

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