There are currently no blood or laboratory tests that
have been proven to help in diagnosing sporadic Parkinson Disease. Therefore the diagnosis
is based on medical history and a neurological examination. The disease can
be difficult to diagnose accurately. Early signs and symptoms of
Parkinson Disease may
sometimes be dismissed as the effects of normal aging. The physician may
need to observe the person for some time until it is apparent that the
symptoms are consistently present. Doctors may sometimes request brain
scans or laboratory tests in order to rule out other diseases. However, CT
and MRI brain scans of people with Parkinson Disease usually appear normal. Since many
other diseases have similar features but require different treatments,
making a precise diagnosis as soon as possible is essential so that patients
can receive the proper treatment.
Parkinson Disease is not by itself a fatal disease, but it does get
worse with time. The average life expectancy of a Parkinson Disease patient is generally
the same as for people who do not have the disease. However, in the late
stages of the disease, Parkinson Disease may cause complications such as choking, pneumonia,
and falls that can lead to death. Fortunately, there are many treatment
options available for people with Parkinson Disease.
The progression of symptoms in
Parkinson Disease may take 20 years or
more. In some people, however, the disease progresses more quickly. There
is no way to predict what course the disease will take for an individual
person. One commonly used system for describing how the symptoms of
progress is called the Hoehn and Yahr scale.
Hoehn and Yahr Staging of Parkinson's Disease
Symptoms on one side of the body only.
Symptoms on both sides of the body. No
impairment of balance.
Balance impairment. Mild to moderate disease.
Severe disability, but still able to walk or
Wheelchair-bound or bedridden unless assisted.
Another commonly used scale is the Unified Parkinson's
Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS). This much more complicated scale has multiple
ratings that measure mental functioning, behavior, and mood; activities of
daily living; and motor function. Both the Hoehn and Yahr scale and the
UPDRS are used to measure how individuals are faring and how much treatments
are helping them.
With appropriate treatment, most people with
Parkinson Disease can
live productive lives for many years after diagnosis.