Parkinsonism vs. Parkinson's Disease

By Contributing Writer

Parkinson's disease is a disorder of your body's motor system. It results from a loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Early signs and symptoms of Parkinson's are slight and subtle. It is a progressive disease and the symptoms do get worse over time. Parkinson's can be difficult to diagnose correctly and is sometimes overlooked or inaccurately labeled. Parkinsonism is not the same as Parkinson's disease, and knowing the difference is important to patients, caregivers and doctors.

What is Parkinsonism?

Parkinsonism refers to any condition that results in the combination of movement abnormalities that affect Parkinson's patients, including tremors, rigidity, slow movements, and slurred or impaired speech. Not everyone who has Parkinsonism has Parkinson's disease.


Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of dopamine. Parkinsonism can be caused by a stroke, encephalitis, meningitis, progressive supranuclear palsy, cortibosasal degeneration, certain antipsychotic and metoclopramide medications, toxins or head trauma.


Symptoms for both Parkinson's disease and Parkinsonism can include alone, or in any combination: tremors; movement abnormalities; impaired balance; trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; stiffness; loss of coordination; or slow movements. Parkinsonism also may cause prominent memory loss, symptoms on only one side of the body, low blood pressure, urinary problems and the inability to perform simple daily tasks.


Your doctor will take a full medical history and ask about exposure to toxins, drugs or head traumas. She may order a CT scan or an MRI. She also may prescribe levodopa, which successfully treats Parkinson's disease. If there is no improvement, your doctor will rule out Parkinson's and diagnose you with Parkinsonism.


In Parkinsonism, if the cause is determined, such as a certain drug or toxins, stopping the drug or removing the toxins may alleviate and even cure the symptom(s). Parkinson's disease is treated with certain medications, which in some cases can dramatically improve your quality of life.


Japan is the only country where the number of women with Parkinson's disease is significantly more than men. Parkinsonism in juveniles is most often genetic.

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