Conditions that Resemble Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating disease that affects a large percentage of the elderly population around the world. It causes degeneration of an essential part of your brain that affects motor control and movement. In turn, patients with Parkinson’s disease lose the ability to control their movements and often have shaking limbs. Medications can help treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but they cannot cure the disease. Patients with Parkinson’s often have many different complications that affect their ability to move and think properly. Unfortunately, many other conditions resemble Parkinson’s disease. These disorders are collectively considered to be Parkinsonism and some of them are listed below.

Drug-Induced Parkinsonism

A reversible form of Parkinson sometimes occurs after using certain medications for a long period of time. Medications such as chlorpromazine and haloperidol are both prescribed for psychiatric disorders and both cause short-term, reversible Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Medications that are used for stomach disorders, high blood pressure, and epilepsy may also cause Parkinson disease symptoms. If this occurs then your doctor may stop the medication or lower your dose to cause your symptoms to disappear.

Toxin-Induced Parkinsonism

Toxins such as manganese dust, carbon disulfide or carbon monoxide can also cause Parkinson disease symptoms. These toxins may cause permanent or short-term symptoms depending on the dosage and the length of exposure to the toxin. The chemical MPTP can also cause a permanent form of Parkinson’s disease. If exposed to this chemical: patients will have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease for the rest of their lives.

Post-Traumatic Parkinsonism

Post-traumatic Parkinsonism is also known as post-traumatic encephalopathy or “punch-drunk syndrome.” This syndrome occurs in patients who have numerous head injuries and head traumas. It can develop after numerous head traumas that usually result from boxing injuries. This type of trauma can cause Parkinson’s disease symptoms to occur or can also cause dementia symptoms to form.

Essential Tremor

Essential tremors are also known as benign essential tremors. They are common in many families and have a strong genetic component. The tremors begin in both hands and progress very slowly over time. Patients with essential tremors do not have any other Parkinson’s disease symptoms beside the slight tremors in their hands. Very rarely, they may also have tremors in their head and neck; however their legs are never affected. Usually, patients with essential tremors do not respond to Parkinson’s disease medications but they may respond to other types of muscle medications.

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Normal pressure hydrocephalus is an abnormal increase in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. This can occur idiopathically if the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid is blocked. This causes the ventricles to enlarge and put pressure on the brain. As the pressure gets worse than patients can develop problems walking and may develop symptoms that resemble dementia as well. They may also have a general slowing of their movements and may have issues with urinary control. These symptoms can all easily be misinterpreted as Parkinson’s disease but patients with this condition will not respond to Parkinson’s disease medications. Brain scans and other tests to determine the pressure in the brain will help distinguish normal pressure hydrocephalus from Parkinson’s disease.

Corticobasal Degeneration

Corticobasal degeneration is a disease that occurs when multiple areas of the brain atrophy, including the cerebral cortex and the basal ganglia. The initial symptoms of this disease may appear on only one side of the body, but they will eventually affect both sides. Symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease, and include rigidity, impaired balance, impaired coordination, and dystonia. Other symptoms that may not resemble Parkinson’s disease include cognitive and visual-spatial impairments, apraxia, hesitant speech, muscular jerks and difficulty swallowing. This disease however does not respond to Parkinson’s disease drugs and a diagnosis of this disease may occur after Parkinson’s disease has already been ruled out due to the failure of its medications.

Multiple System Atrophy

Multiple system atrophy is a disease that involves numerous progressive disorders. This disease is a set of slowly progressive disorders that all affect the central and autonomic nervous systems. This disease may resemble Parkinson’s disease and include symptoms of poor coordination and slurred speech. This disease may also cause breathing and swallowing difficulties, constipation, male impotence, and urinary difficulties. Blood pressure may also be affected in certain cases.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies is a neurodegenerative disorder that is associated with abnormal protein deposits, or Lewy bodies, being found in many different areas of the brain. These protein deposits cause a variety of symptoms depending on their location and concentration. They may produce symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease such as muscle rigidity, muscle spasms or tremors and a shuffling gait. Other symptoms that do not resemble Parkinson’s disease include visual hallucinations, memory problems and depression. All of these symptoms may wax and wane throughout the patient’s day, week and month. Typically patients with this disease show cognitive symptoms early on in their disease progression and then show motor symptoms as the disease progresses. Motor symptoms can be alleviated by Parkinson’s disease drugs such as levodopa.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease that affects many people all around the world. Unfortunately there are also many other diseases that produce symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. All of these diseases mentioned above can produce symptoms that resemble Parkinson’s disease and can be misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. If you or someone you love has been exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as muscle weakness, tremors, poor coordination, and poor balance then it is essential that you visit a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor should be able to test you for Parkinson’s disease and determine if you are suffering from the disease or suffering from any of the diseases mentioned above. Unfortunately though many of these diseases cannot be tested for and must be ruled out through medication trials or other tests. For this reason, it is essential that you speak with your doctor about all of your symptoms and ask many questions about possible diagnoses. You or your loved ones can benefit greatly from a proper diagnosis and from being educated about the diagnosis.

For more information about Parkinson’s, check the following articles in our home care blog: