Man and woman sitting in park setting

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the progressive breakdown of the nerve cells in the brain that control muscle movement. While there is no cure for the disease, treatments can help to relieve symptoms.

Symptoms

Parkinson's disease symptoms vary from person to person, and they also change over time. While certain symptoms may occur in an early stage of the disease for one patient, the same symptoms may not occur until a later stage, or never occur, for another patient.

Patients may begin experiencing Parkinson’s disease symptoms at any age, but they typically appear when patients are between the ages of 50 and 60. Due to their slow development, symptoms often go unnoticed initially, and they can include the following:

  • A slowness in voluntary movement that causes difficulty initiating and completing movement
  • Tremors in the hands, fingers, forearms, feet, mouth, and chin
  • Rigidity and muscle pain
  • Poor balance, an unsteady walk and frequent falls
  • Changes in facial expression, as well as voice and speech
  • Loss of fine motor skills, such as writing or eating

Diagnosis

Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease can be difficult, as there is no blood or lab test available to diagnose the disease, and symptoms may mirror other disorders. 

Some imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to rule out disorders that cause similar symptoms. A physician may also observe the patient over time to look for characteristic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This observation will include the physician taking a complete medical history of the patient, as well as rigorous physical examinations.

While the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be difficult, it is essential to developing an appropriate treatment plan, as beginning with the best possible treatment early on can lead to improved results in the future. Since the doctor is responsible for the diagnosis, you should be sure to be diagnosed by a physician who is experienced in evaluating patients for Parkinson’s disease.

Treatment


Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured, but MedStar Health offers individualized services designed to maximize patients’ function and independence.

These treatments include:

  • Medical evaluation and care, including prescription medications
  • Physical and occupational therapy

  • Speech-language pathology

  • Recommendations for home modifications and assistive devices

  • Nutrition and exercise recommendations

  • Social work or other counseling services

  • Deep brain stimulation

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Our providers

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Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence

Additional information

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is the only hospital in Washington, D.C. designated as a Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence.