The Parkinson Support Center believes that decisions about medical care must occur between a patient and a trusted medical professional. The information presented on this website is not intended to replace or interfere with the course of your medical care. It is intended only to assist you in your understanding of Parkinson’s disease.
No information contained on this website is offered or intended as medical advice.
We cannot endorse any treatments described on sites that we link to. We recommend that treatment decisions are based on personal treatment goals with a trusted clinician with experience in the care of Parkinson’s disease, or a physician who can work in conjunction with a PD specialist.
The examination by a neurologist remains the first and most important diagnostic tool for Parkinson’s disease (PD). At this time there is no perfect test to determine PD, although much research is being done.
A neurologist or will make the diagnosis based on:
A detailed history of symptoms, medical problems, current and past medications. Certain medical conditions, as well as some medications, can cause symptoms similar to Parkinson’s.
A detailed neurological examination during which a neurologist will ask you to perform tasks to assess the agility of arms and legs, muscle tone, gait and balance, to see if: expression and speech are animated, tremor can be observed in your extremities at rest or in action, there is stiffness in extremities or neck, or if you can maintain your balance and examine your posture.
Most commonly, people with PD respond well to dopaminergic medications. Lack of response to medications may prompt the doctor to seek an alternative diagnosis such as atypical parkinsonism and order further testing such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain.
When unsure of a PD diagnosis, neurologists often refer patients to movement disorders specialists.
Finding the right doctor is an important part of your treatment. If at all possible, make an appointment with a movement disorders specialist. A movement disorders specialist is a neurologist who has taken additional training in the subspecialty in neurology called movement disorders (as compared to other subspecialties in neurology). Movement disorders specialists are most often also involved in research and/or teaching in addition to their clinical concerns and are more typically found at major medical institutions. Such professionals typically follow a greater number of patients with these disorders and are generally more experienced in the use of the various medications compared to a general neurologist, an internist or general practitioner.