A detailed neurological exam should be part of a standard physical exam to diagnose Parkinson's disease. It can also separate Parkinson's disease from other conditions. Your family doctor or general practitioner can do this. Or you may be referred to a neurologist. This is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and muscles).
During this exam, your doctor will observe your movement, coordination, and balance. You may be asked to complete a few physical tasks, such as walking up and down a hall or getting up from a chair. The doctor also will watch for any rapid, repetitive movements, such as finger-tapping or tremor. Simple tests may be used to check your muscle strength and control. The doctor may also test your reflexes, sensation (such as the ability to feel a pinprick or a light touch), and vision.
Parkinson's disease mostly affects older people but can also occur in younger adults. The symptoms are the result of the gradual degeneration of nerve cells in the portion of the midbrain that controls body movements. The first signs are likely to be barely noticeable -- a feeling of weakness or stiffness in one limb, or a fine trembling of one hand when it is at rest. Eventually, the shaking (tremor) worsens and spreads, muscles become stiffer, movements slow down, and balance and coordination...
The neurological exam also will include a brief assessment of your mental ability and emotional condition. The doctor may ask you to repeat a series of numbers. Or you may be asked to answer simple questions about dates, places, and current events. The doctor usually can judge your emotional condition during the exam by paying attention to your actions and statements. The doctor may ask direct questions about your mood and emotions.
The doctor will also listen to your heart and lungs. He or she may perform other routine tests.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 12, 2014
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