In order to diagnose Parkinson's disease, a survey of the patient and the relatives is usually carried out first. These include, among other things, the onset of the symptoms and possible impairments in digestion, excretion and sexual function. To enable a reliable diagnosis, the doctor then performs various medical examinations. If the disease is already at an advanced stage, Parkinson's is often recognizable at first glance because of its typical symptoms.
The doctor will first check to see if the symptoms typical of Parkinson's disease are present, including slowing the movement, resting torment, stiffness of the muscles, and forward leaning posture.
Imaging procedures can then provide a more accurate diagnosis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) can be used to exclude other brain diseases that cause visible changes. For example, a CT can be used to check whether a brain tumor or an old stroke is behind the symptoms.
On the other hand, an MRI is usually used when the treating physician suspects an atypical Parkinson's syndrome. In individual cases, procedures can also be used to detect disorders of dopamine metabolism in the brain.
The levodopa test
It is characteristic for many Parkinson's patients that they initially respond well to the administration of levodopa (L-Dopa) - a precursor of dopamine. Therefore, patients suspected of having Parkinson's disease will often be given levodopa once to confirm the diagnosis. One to two days before taking a dopamine antagonist should be taken to prevent unwanted side effects of levodopa such as nausea or vomiting.
If symptoms improve after ingestion, this is considered to be a clear sign of Parkinson's disease. Since the dosage of levodopa for the test is usually very high and therefore stronger side effects may occur, the test is often performed under medical supervision.
Parkinson's: course and prognosis
Parkinson's disease generally progresses slowly - how fast the symptoms worsen is individually different. The sooner adequate treatment is started, the longer life expectancy can be extended and the quality of life increased.
Usually, the life expectancy of Parkinson's patients is only minimally below that of their peers. In addition, more than 20 years can pass after the onset of the disease, until a Parkinson's patient can no longer self-sustain.
However, it is still the case that Parkinson's disease is not curable. The progression of the disease can not be stopped, but only slowed down. Therefore, Parkinson's patients are at an increased risk of one day being dependent on outside help due to physical limitations. The further the disease progresses, the more likely it is that complications will occur. These include falls, respiratory infections or dysphagia, which in the worst case can lead to death.