Even with Parkinson’s disease having quite idiosyncratic features, it is a relatively difficult disease to diagnose, especially in its early stages. There are no specific tests which doctors can do to positively a diagnose Parkinson’s disease and in particular in it’s early stages it can be mistaken for other diseases. If and when this happens, it delays or prevents the proper treatment being given in the quickest possible time.

The problem with diagnosing Parkinson’s disease accurately is simply that the symptoms are not always as conclusive as doctors would like them to be. Indeed indications are that up to 25% of those people presently being treated for Parkinson’s disease could have been wrongly diagnosed and are therefore receiving wrong treatment.

Usually patients who are thought to be suffering from Parkinson’s disease are given tests to ensure they are not suffering from a disorder that can be diagnosed using usual methods such as MRI scanning, urine sampling, radiology, blood tests, etc. However, just because these tests may have an inconclusive answer, doesn’t mean the person is definitely suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately some doctors think this is the case, and will mechanically make a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

Tests that can be done to check for Parkinson’s disease include systematic neurological assessments which include testing the person’s reflexes, balance, muscle strength gait and general movement. There are a range of neurological disorders that do have similar characteristics to Parkinson’s disease, so it’s not too unexpected that Parkinson’s disease is often misdiagnosed. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a second opinion or, even better, to ask to be referred to a doctor who specialises in this type of disease. An early accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is key to the sufferer being able to maintain their independence and a good quality of life for quite a long time.

Some neurological conditions that are often confused with Parkinson’s disease include

• Multiple system atrophy • Supranuclear palsy • Benign Essential Tremor • Multiple Sclerosis • Huntingtons disease • Striato-Nigral Degeneration • Brain tumour

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