Parkinson's is part of an umbrella of conditions known as ‘parkinsonism’. The main symptoms of Parkinson's are also the main symptoms of a number of conditions which are grouped together under the term 'parkinsonism'.
Parkinson's is the most common condition in this area, and is sometimes referred to as idiopathic Parkinson's disease. This is because the majority of people with Parkinson’s do not know what caused it.
Diagnosing Parkinson's and other parkinsonism conditions is difficult as there are no special tests that can prove absolutely whether someone has a particular condition, so a variety of techniques (usually based on clinical examination and medical history) are used.
People with Parkinson's should show an initial good response to the common Parkinson’s medication, Levodopa. People with other causes of parkinsonism usually do not respond or tend to respond less well. If specialists see unusual symptoms and a poor response they may start to question whether the person has Parkinson's or a Parkinsonism condition.
When this is the case, the terms 'Parkinson's Syndrome', 'Atypical Parkinsonism' or 'Parkinson's Plus' may be used by the doctor. These terms are not diagnoses but simply indicate that the person probably does not have ordinary Parkinson's. Symptoms that allow the doctor to make a specific diagnosis may only appear as the condition develops. Other Parkinsonism conditions include Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) and Multiple System Atrophy (MSA).
Parkinson's New Zealand provides support and information for all people with Parkinsonism conditions - not only those with Parkinson's.