What disorders mimic Parkinson's disease?

4 answers | Last updated: Oct 08, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

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

Expert Answers

Graham A. Glass, MD, is the deputy director of the San Francisco Parkinson's Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Care Center (PADRECC) and an assistant clinical professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He 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.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Great answer...please fix Dr. Glass' name with his photo

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am pretty amazed the professional did not mention Hydrocephalus also known as NPH or Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. My husband had all the same original symptoms of Parkinsons and NPH and his Neurologist went 4 years refusing to give us a real diagnosis. He told us that the famed Billy Graham had been misdiagnosed with Parkinsons and actually had NPH. (I dont know if this is true) but it was his way of telling us it was just too hard to diagnose. A second Neurologist also avoided telling us anything by calling my husbands disease "parkinsonism". Finally we travelled to another city and major medical facility to yet another Neurologist who said, "no not parkinsons---NPH and referred us to a neurosurgeon who shunted my husband. Longer story short, he had 13 surgeries installing and removing shunts, (4 lumbar the rest ventricle) But had to go to yet another city and major medical facility to finish the ventricle shunts and half of those surgeries. Finally yet another Neurologist who said, not only NPH but Lewybody Dementia. Yes, 2 major neurological diseases. Now a stroke has placed him in a memory care facility.

I wish I could give good advice to those out there noticing they are losing their balance, having incontinence problems, losing short term memory-------we just kept getting more opinions, and all were different, it seems in Neurology the common answer of neurological medical personell is "I don't know" and "Maybe". We need a lot more research and answers in this field as it seems we are still "practicing neurological medicine". For patients and loved ones, it is the most frustrating experience to deal with neurological problems.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I agree... I am having a most horrible time getting my mother a proper diagnosis, and no one seems to know anything and she is just being fed useless parkinsons medication which is neurotoxic in itself. Why does general population know so much about "brad and angelina" but no one knows anything about these problems that people experience, why can't more money be poured into developing cures for neurological diseases instead of making newer cell phone technologies that we need to update every year? Why can't the donated money from different scientific foundations be united and all the smartest scientist work on one disease at the time.