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How is the diagnosis made?


"I thought it was my age, but the doctor examined me and knew straight away that it was Parkinson's"


  • Making the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease (PD) can be difficult. There are no special tests that are used routinely and the doctor reaches the diagnosis after talking with you and looking at the symptoms that you present. An accurate diagnosis is very important.

  • At least two of the three main symptoms (slowness of movement, muscular stiffness and or/or tremor) must be present to establish the diagnosis of PD.

  • The early symptoms of PD tend to be vague and it may take time to discover the cause. Common early problems include tiredness, slowing down, poor balance, or difficulties with handwriting and these may suggest a number of possible diagnoses. 

  • Tremor is present in 70 per cent of people when PD is diagnosed. However, it may be absent, especially in older people. There are also many causes of tremor other than PD. In some patients with tremor, a new brain scan ('DAT Scan') may contribute to diagnosis, when there is doubt.

  • PD is the most common cause of 'Parkinsonism', which is the description used for people with stiffness, slowness of movement and tremor. As well as PD, Parkinsonism may be caused by some drugs, by a condition called Dementia with Lewy Bodies and by other uncommon neurological conditions, such as Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSA).

  • For some people, it may take some months to discover that their problems are caused by PD. As symptoms progress and muscles become stiffer, movement slower and tremor more pronounced, the diagnosis becomes more straightforward.

  • Specialist PD doctors see many patients with the condition. They are more experienced and confident in making the diagnosis and are best able to advice on best management. Whenever possible, people with PD should always be referred to a doctor with a special interest in the condition.

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Further Information 

Your doctor, or specialist nursing staff can explain more about your current and possible future symptoms.

The Parkinson's Disease Society (telephone 020 7931 8080) can also provide information http://www.parkinsons.org.uk

Useful books include:

'Parkinson's At Your Finger Tips' by Marie Oxtoby and Adrian Williams, published in 2002 by Glass Publications, London. ISBN 1 872362 96 6

Useful Websites include:

Adrienne Coles Info Office 


Worldwide Education and Awareness for Movement Disorders 





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This site has been established for the dissemination of information. While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site is accurate and current we accept no liability for any omissions or inaccuracies that may have crept in. If in any doubt please contact your doctor for further advice.

Last Modified 13 August 2004
Maintained by Matthew Harris