Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disease of the nervous system, often characterized by involuntary muscle spasms or freezes. The causes are still somewhat unknown, but genetics as well as environmental factors are believed to play a major role. Parkinson's tests are fairly rudimentary, since there is no definitive diagnostic test for the disease. A person exhibiting signs of early stages of the disease may be asked to go through a series of Parkinson's tests to try and achieve an accurate diagnosis. Additionally, progression of the condition may be monitored through Parkinson's tests.
Most Parkinson's tests for diagnosis begin with a detailed family history. People who have relatives with Parkinson's may be somewhat more likely to develop the disease. Other risk factors include age and gender; men are more likely than women to develop the condition, and younger adults are rarely diagnosed with the disease. A family history can help a doctor establish the risk level for the disease.
Basic neurological examinations are also used as Parkinson's tests. These include observation of walking and motor co-ordination. Though it may seem trivial, doctors use these tests to determine important skills such as balance and any movement abnormality. Some of the symptoms that indicate the disease may be visible in this form of testing.
Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) or computer tomography (CT) scans may be done as a means of eliminating other possible conditions. These tests cannot detect any sign of Parkinson's, as the disease occurs on a chemical level that cannot usually be visualized. Bloodwork may be done to check for liver or thyroid diseases that could cause some of the same symptoms. In rare cases, a positron emission test (PET) is done to check for low levels of dopamine, which are associated with Parkinson's. The scanners that can perform PET scans are extremely rare and expensive, however, so this step is often omitted.
Another form of Parkinson's tests is through medication. Though there are no medical cures for the disease, some medications have been formulated the reduce symptoms. If a patient responds to the medication, it is generally considerate a sign of a positive diagnosis.
Often, a diagnosis of Parkinson's is given by adding up the results of all Parkinson's tests. Usually, if a person shows several signs related to the disease, it is enough to give a diagnosis. Since Parkinson's testing can take several days or weeks, it may be a frustrating and upsetting experience. Be sure to seek mental and emotional support during this time, to help manage anxiety and fear and create a plan for the future.