For now, there is no reliable self-test you can use to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. If you notice early symptoms like tremors, stiffness, weakness, or others, see a healthcare professional for a full evaluation.
Parkinson’s disease is a health condition that makes it harder to manage your body’s movements and your sense of balance. The disorder affects a group of nerves and cells in the middle of your brain, which together are known as the substantia nigra.
Parkinson’s is degenerative, which means symptoms are mild at first but become more intense with time. There is no cure yet, but treatments can help manage symptoms.
There is no single test — either at home or in a medical setting — that can tell you whether you have Parkinson’s disease (PD). Instead, a diagnosis is based on a physical examination that a healthcare professional performs.
While there is no self-test for Parkinson’s, the information you provide about your own body and your experiences will help a healthcare professional determine whether you have PD or another condition.
It’s important that you notice and keep track of changes in your mood, thinking, symptoms, and sleep patterns since the earliest Parkinson’s symptoms may not involve movement or balance.
Parkinson’s is known as a movement disorder. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- having tremors, or uncontrolled shaking, especially in your hands
- moving more slowly, known as bradykinesia
- feeling stiff on one or both sides of your body
- experiencing changes in the way you walk
- having “flat” facial expressions
- feeling dizzy or off-balance
The area of your brain that Parkinson’s affects is also involved in other physical and mental processes. Some symptoms of Parkinson’s are not related to movement and are harder to see. They include:
- memory problems
- losing the ability to smell
- trouble urinating
- feeling hotter or colder than usual
- sweating or salivating more than you normally do
- waking up in the middle of the night
- feeling sleepy during the day
Some people also notice that their handwriting has gotten smaller or their voice is softer than it once was.
Parkinson’s affects people in different ways, and symptoms progress differently from one person to the next. Asking questions like the ones below may help you better understand your situation:
- What other conditions could explain the symptoms I’m having?
- What other specialists could help me manage my symptoms?
- What medications might I need?
- What medication side effects could I experience?
- What symptoms am I likely to have next?
- How should I plan to modify my home to make it safer and simpler to navigate?
- Are there community organizations that could provide extra support for me and my family?
A healthcare professional will meet with you and ask questions about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Some health professionals use a checklist such as the one created by the
It’s also important to find out whether anyone in your family has or had Parkinson’s since genes play a role in its development.
You will also need a physical exam. A healthcare professional can look carefully at how you stand, sit, and walk to see whether you show signs of Parkinson’s. Your doctor may also assess:
- your sense of smell
- your ability to see colors
- your sleep patterns
In some cases, you might need an
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI scans examine the brain. If you have PD, an MRI may show a loss of dark pigment in nerve cells linked to Parkinson’s.
- Dopamine transporter imaging (DaTscan): While not routinely used, these tests may help detect changes in brain chemicals associated with Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder, meaning symptoms become more intense over time. How fast symptoms progress varies from person to person. For now, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatment can often slow symptom progression.
What causes Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain that produces two brain chemicals: dopamine and norepinephrine.
Parkinson’s exact cause is unknown. The reason for the loss of these cells is believed to be related to genes or environmental factors, or possibly a combination. Researchers are working to identify the risk factors that make Parkinson’s more likely to develop.
What’s the difference between Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s?
They are two separate health conditions.
Essential Tremor causes shaking of your hands, head, and voice. The tremors can make it harder to keep your balance or complete tasks like writing, but they do not directly affect your health in other ways.
Essential Tremor causes action tremors, but Parkinson’s causes tremors at rest. Parkinson’s also causes symptoms other than tremors.
Can Parkinson’s affect my thinking?
Some people with Parkinson’s have cognitive changes in late stages. It’s not uncommon to have trouble staying organized, focusing, paying attention, and remembering things. Occupational therapy and speech therapy can help you build strategies to deal with these changes.
At present, there is no self-test you can use to find out whether you have Parkinson’s disease.
Discussing your medical history and symptoms with a healthcare professional can help you in getting a clear diagnosis. They can rule out any other possible explanations for the symptoms you’re having.
Working with a healthcare professional early on can help you manage Parkinson’s symptoms and improve your quality of life.