Parkinsonism

Specialty of Neurology

What is Parkinsonism?

Parkinsonism is a general term that refers to a group of neurological disorders that cause movement problems similar to those seen in Parkinson's disease, such as tremors, slow movement and stiffness.

What are the symptoms of Parkinsonism?

The most common symptoms of this condition:

  • Tremors, especially in the hands
  • Decreased facial expressions or difficulty making facial expressions
  • Paralysis or weakness of muscles
  • Difficulty controlling or initiating a movement
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Weakened voice

A person who has Parkinsonism will also have another disorder that causes additional neurological symptoms. These symptoms may be dementia, confusion or memory loss, problems associated with balance and muscle spasms.

What are the causes of Parkinsonism?

Parkinson’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative cause of Parkinsonism.

Other causes of Parkinsonism include:

  • Brain injury
  • Encephalitis; inflammation of the brain, most commonly caused by a viral infection
  • Diffuse Lewy body disease; a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by dementia
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Multiple system atrophy (MSA), a fatal neurodegenerative disease causing slowness of movement and impaired speech, among other symptoms
  • Meningitis; inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord can trigger symptoms of Parkinsonism
  • Stroke
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy; an uncommon brain disorder that affects movement, balance and speech.
  • Wilson's disease; a disorder in which copper builds up in the body, causing tissue and organ damage
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Brain damage caused by anaesthetic drugs
  • Mercury poisoning and other chemicals
  • Certain medications used to treat mental disorders or nausea
  • MPTP (a contaminant in some psychoactive drugs)
  • Narcotic overdose

Can Parkinsonism be prevented?

Parkinsonism can be prevented by treating the conditions causing Parkinsonism mentioned above or controlling the intake of medications that could potentially cause it.

What is the treatment for Parkinsonism?

If the cause of Parkinsonism is drug-related, the drug may be suspended or exchanged for another. Also, by treating conditions, such as infections or strokes that cause Parkinsonism, symptoms of the disease can be reduced or terminated. Drugs may be recommended to alleviate the symptoms of the disease, however, treatment always focuses more on the additional disease that a person has. Doctors often recommend physical and occupational therapy because they can help a person keep their muscles strong and improve balance. 

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