What disorders mimic Parkinson's disease?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What are the look-alike disorders that mimic Parkinson disease?

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.

There are a number of disorders that share some of the same symptoms as Parkinson's disease and can result in "diagnostic confusion" for physicians and patients alike. Often, when patients are progressing very rapidly, develop balance problems within the first few years, don't respond to a strong dose of carbidopa/levodopa, or have a number of additional features, we start to wonder if a patient may have an "atypical parkinson's syndrome." Although a comprehensive list is beyond the scope of this answer, "mimics" can include medication induced parkinsonism, multiple systems atrophy, progressive supranuclear palsy, cortico-basal syndrome, vascular parkinsonism, repeated head trauma (boxing etc.) and lewy body dementia. For further details, I would reccomend that you refer to Eric Ahlskog's writeup on the [Mayo Clinic website] (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24996235) and the Parkinson's Disease Foundation website.