Is Parkinson's causing my husband's numbness?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband is 52 and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 47. It is very progressive. He falls a lot, shakes,and bends over severely when he walks or stands. 10 months ago he had facial bell palsy. It was on his left side. However, now his right side of his face near his lower jaw bone is numb. He had an MRI that showed no changes since the last one he had several months ago. His neurologist can find no answer for us. He can't even tell if the numbness is caused by his Parkinson's. Could something other than Parkinson's be causing this numbness?

Expert Answer

Graham A. Glass, MD, is the co-founder of PEAK Neurology and Sleep Medicine, LLC with multiple locations across Alaska. Previously, he was deputy director of the San Francisco Parkinson's Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Care Center PADRECC and assistant clinical professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Glass received his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at the San Antonio School of Medicine and completed his neurology residency at Tufts-New England Medical Center. He subsequently completed a fellowship in movement disorders at the Mayo Clinic.

Indeed this numbness could be from something other than Parkinson's disease. Although patients with Parkinson's disease can have numbness and tingling, it rarely affects the face and typically is an "off" symptom, meaning that it goes away with medication doses.

Given the fact that your husbands' Parkinson's disease has progressed quite quickly and that he has what sounds like significant problems with balance within 5 years of "disease onset," I would question whether this might represent and atypical parkinson syndrome. My suggestion would be to ask for a second opinion at a tertiary care center with a fellowship trained movement disorders specialist.