Parkinson’s Treatment Tips: What Test Should my Doctor Order to Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease

What is the best test for my doctor to order to diagnose Parkinson’s disease?

There is no reliable blood test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease.  The best way to make a diagnosis is to have a neurological examination by someone experienced in the care of Parkinson’s disease patients.  There are diagnostic criteria for the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (UK Brain Bank Criteria), which usually include:

I: Is Bradykinesia (slowness of movement present?

II: Are two of the below present?

___ Rigidity (Stiffness in arms, leg, or neck)

___ 4-6 Hertz resting tremor

___ Postural instability not caused by primary visual, vestibular, cerebellar, proprioceptive dysfunction

III: Are at least 3 of the below present?

___ Unilateral onset

___ Rest tremor present

___ Progressive disorder

___ Persistent asymmetry affecting side of onset most

___ Excellent response (70-100%) to levodopa

___ Severe levodopa induced dyskinesia

___ Levodopa response for 5 years or more

___ Clinical course of 5 years or more

Very rarely, there exists confusion about the diagnosis, and in these cases other tests such as Positron Emission Tomography, and Beta SPECT scanning (DAT) may be useful. (Hughes, Ben-Shlomo et al. 1992; Hughes, Daniel et al. 1992; Hughes, Daniel et al. 1993; Jankovic 2008; Jankovic and Aguilar 2008).  DAT Scans have recently been approved by the FDA to differentiate Parkinson’s disease from essential tremor.

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About the Author


Michael Okun

Professor of Neurology, expert on Parkinson's disease and other basal ganglia disorders, deep brain stimulation, author of over 300 research papers and the bestselling book…

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