No specific test exists to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Your doctor trained in nervous system conditions (neurologist) will diagnose Parkinson’s disease based on your medical history, a review of your signs and symptoms, and a neurological and physical examination.
Your doctor may suggest a specific single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scan called a dopamine transporter scan (DaTscan). Although this can help support the suspicion that you have Parkinson’s disease, it is your symptoms and neurologic examination that ultimately determine the correct diagnosis. Most people do not require a DaTscan .
Your doctor may order lab tests, such as blood tests, to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
Imaging tests — such as an MRI, ultrasound of the brain, and PET scans — also may be used to help rule out other disorders. Imaging tests aren’t particularly helpful for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to your examination, your doctor may give you carbidopa-levodopa (Rytary, Sinemet, others), a Parkinson’s disease medication. You must be given a sufficient dose to show the benefit, as low doses for a day or two aren’t reliable. Significant improvement with this medication will often confirm your diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Sometimes it takes time to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Doctors may recommend regular follow-up appointments with neurologists trained in movement disorders to evaluate your condition and symptoms over time and diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
There is no standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Treatment for each person with Parkinson’s is based on his or her symptoms.
Treatments include medication and surgical therapy. Other treatments include lifestyle modifications, like getting more rest and exercise.
There are many medications available to treat the Parkinson’s symptoms, although none yet that reverse the effects of the disease. It is common for people with PD to take a variety of these medications — all at different doses and at different times of day — to manage symptoms.
While keeping track of medications can be a challenging task, understanding your medications and sticking to a schedule will provide the greatest benefit from the drugs and avoid unpleasant “off” periods due to missed doses.