Podcast Episode 49: Parkinson’s Disease vs. Parkinsonism: What’s the Difference?

If a person develops symptoms of tremor, slow movements, and stiffness, it could be early signs of Parkinson’s disease (PD) but it may also be the beginnings of any of a group of conditions known by the general term “parkinsonism,” conditions that have some symptoms in common with PD but differ in important ways. Also called atypical Parkinson’s disease or Parkinson’s plus, they tend to progress faster, and they may or may not respond to levodopa, and possibly only show modest benefit. While Parkinson’s disease represents 85-90% of all cases of parkinsonism, a definitive diagnosis for atypical parkinsonism may never be made while the person is alive. Licensed Clinical Social Worker Paula Wiener, a Senior Parkinson’s Information Specialist with the Parkinson’s Foundation, describes the difference between Parkinson’s disease and parkinsonism and gives some examples of Parkinson’s plus. As with PD, exercise is highly recommended for these atypical parkinsonian syndromes.

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About This Episode

Released: February 26, 2019

Paula McFeely Wiener, MSW, LCSW

Paula is a licensed clinical social worker and senior information specialist with the Parkinson’s Foundation.  Since receiving her MSW in 1995, she has worked almost exclusively with the senior population. Her experience includes being a center coordinator for a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, leading a number of PD support groups, educating patients, families, and health care professionals about the disease, and answering questions on the Helpline for 12 years. Paula is passionate about improving understanding and care for people with Parkinson’s disease and their family members.  Paula’s father was diagnosed with atypical parkinsonism which gave her a very personal understanding of what patients and families with this diagnosis go through.

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