Parkinson's or Parkinson's Plus?
Parkinsonism is an umbrella term which includes a variety of conditions that are similar to Parkinson's.
Diagnosing Parkinson's or Parkinsonism 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.
Parkinson's is the most common condition and is sometimes referred to as idiopathic Parkinson's disease. This is because for the majority of people with Parkinson’s we do not know what caused it.
People with Parkinson's should show an initial good response to the common Parkinson’s medication, Levodopa. People with Parkinsonism conditions usually do not respond or tend to respond less well. If specialists see unusual symptoms and a poor response, they may start to consider whether the person has Parkinson's or a Parkinsonism condition. 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 idiopathic Parkinson's. Symptoms that allow the doctor to make a specific diagnosis may only appear as the condition develops.
At Parkinson's New Zealand we use the term 'Parkinson's Plus' and provide support and information for all people with Parkinson's plus conditions -including Multiple System Atrophy, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, Corticobasal Syndrome and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. These conditions are rare, making our support vital.
People diagnosed with Parkinson’s under the age of 60 are considered to have early-onset Parkinson’s in Aotearoa New Zealand.
While Parkinson’s is often considered an older person’s condition, approximately 10% of the population diagnosed with Parkinson’s are under the age of 60.
Although most symptoms are the same at whatever age Parkinson's develops, the psychological, social, and medical management implications are very different for people with early-onset Parkinson's. A diagnosis at a young age presents its own unique set of challenges as people are often still working, raising whānau and juggling financial demands.
Although there is currently no cure for Parkinson's and Parkinson's Plus conditions there are treatments which can control the symptoms and improve quality of life.