Skip to content

Parkinson's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Parkinson's Disease: Classification - Topic Overview

Parkinson's disease and parkinsonism

Parkinson's disease is named for Dr. James Parkinson, who in 1817 first described the features of this illness. Features of Parkinson's disease include tremor, slow movement (bradykinesia), and rigid muscles (rigidity). People with parkinsonism may have Parkinson's disease or another illness with similar symptoms.

Other conditions and diseases that cause parkinsonism may also cause symptoms that are not seen with Parkinson's disease. These conditions may be treated differently than Parkinson's disease. Unlike Parkinson's, some conditions that cause parkinsonism are reversible.

Recommended Related to Parkinson's

10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Parkinson's Disease

Since you've recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, ask your doctor these questions at your next visit. 1. What stage is my illness in now? 2. How quickly do you think my disease will progress? 3. How will Parkinson's disease affect my work? 4. What physical changes can I expect? Will I be able to keep up the activities, hobbies, and sports I do now? 5. What treatments do you suggest now? Will that change as the disease progresses? 6. What are the side effects of medication?...

Read the 10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Parkinson's Disease article > >

  • Parkinson's-plus syndromes are a group of disorders characterized by the degeneration of nerve cells in different parts of the brain. They include progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and multiple system atrophy (MSA), among others. Parkinson's-plus syndromes have parkinsonian features as well as features that are not associated with Parkinson's disease. These syndromes usually respond poorly to levodopa or dopamine agonists.
  • Secondary or symptomatic parkinsonism describes the syndrome of parkinsonism when it occurs as the result of an identifiable cause. For example, certain medicines, brain tumors, strokes, infections (such as encephalitis), and toxins (such as carbon monoxide or manganese) can cause secondary parkinsonism.

Stages of Parkinson's disease

It may be helpful for people with Parkinson's disease and their families to be familiar with some of the ways the disease is described. Experts describe symptoms and stages of the disease differently.

Parkinson's disease sometimes is described as early, moderate, or advanced.

  • Early disease describes the stage when a person has a mild tremor or stiffness but is able to continue work or other normal daily activities. This often refers to a person who has been newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
  • Moderate disease describes the stage when a person begins to experience limited movement. A person with moderate Parkinson's disease may have a mild to moderate tremor with slow movement.
  • Advanced disease describes the stage when a person is significantly limited in his or her activity, despite treatment. Daily changes in symptoms, medicine side effects that limit treatment, and loss of independence in activities of daily living are common. A person with advanced Parkinson's disease may have significant problems with posture, movement, and speech.

Parkinson's disease may also be described by five stages:

  • Stage I: Symptoms affect only one side of the body.
  • Stage II: Both sides of the body are affected, but posture remains normal.
  • Stage III: Both sides of the body are affected, and there is mild imbalance during standing or walking. But the person remains independent.
  • Stage IV: Both sides of the body are affected, and there is disabling instability while standing or walking. The person in this stage requires substantial help.
  • Stage V: Severe, fully developed disease is present. The person is restricted to a bed or chair.

Medical professionals may refer to this scale when discussing the disease and decisions about treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
1
Next Article:

Parkinson's Disease: Classification Topics

Today on WebMD

Parkinsons disease illustration
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
hands on walker
How does the disease progress?
 
man with serious expression
8 common questions and answers.
intelligence quotient illustration
What are the advantages of DBS?
 
Parkinsons Disease Medications
Article
Questions Doctor Parkinsons
Article
 
Eating Right
Article
Parkinsons Exercise
Article
 
daughter consoling depressed mother
Article
senior man's hands
Article
 
Parkinsons Daily
Article
Acupunture
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections