What is it?
Parkinsonism refers to any condition that causes a combination of the movement abnormalities seen in Parkinson's disease — such as tremors, slow movement, impaired speech or muscle stiffness — resulting from the loss of dopamine-containing nerve cells (neurons). Not everyone who has parkinsonism has Parkinson's disease. Other causes of parkinsonism include:
- Lewy body dementia
- Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain usually caused by infection
- Progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare degenerative brain disorder
- Multiple system atrophy, a degenerative disorder that destroys nerve tissue
- Corticobasal degeneration, a rare neurological disease
- Certain medications, such as some antipsychotics and metoclopramide
- Head trauma, isolated or repeated, such as injuries sustained in boxing
No definitive tests exist for parkinsonism or Parkinson's disease. A diagnosis is usually based on your medical history, observations of signs of the condition and a neurological exam. In the early stages of the disease, it may be difficult to know if parkinsonism is due to Parkinson's disease or another condition that mimics it. The development of additional signs and symptoms, the response to medical treatment, and the progression of the disease may establish the correct diagnosis.
Treatment of parkinsonism is directed at the underlying cause when possible and may include medication to manage the signs and symptoms.