Parkinson’s syndrome or Parkinson’s disease?
Some people may experience symptoms that resemble Parkinson’s disease, but a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease cannot be made. In fact, Parkinson’s disease accounts for 85% of cases in a group of diseases known as “Parkinson’s syndrome.” The latter is also manifested by movement disorders, but the physiology of the disease differs. In fact, Parkinson’s syndrome is usually caused by an imbalance in the cholinergic system (acetylcholine) rather than a dopamine deficit. Overall, some differences are apparent and treatment is not the same.
Conditions that can trigger Parkinson’s syndrome include brain damage from trauma or tumors, minor strokes, and taking certain medications to treat nausea, epilepsy, hypertension, or psychiatric disorders. A variety of unusual neurological conditions also manifest as Parkinson’s syndrome.
There is no specific test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. The neurologist diagnoses the disease based on the patient’s medical history, an examination for signs and symptoms, and a neurological examination.
The doctor may order tests, such as blood tests, to rule out other conditions that may cause these symptoms.
Imaging tests – such as an MRI or brain scan – may also be used to rule out other conditions. Imaging tests are not particularly helpful in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to a standard test, your doctor may give the person carbidopa-levodopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease. The person should receive a sufficient dose to see any benefit from the medication, as low doses given for a day or two are not sufficient. Significant improvement with this medication often confirms the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease may take time. Doctors may recommend regular follow-up visits to assess the person’s condition and symptoms over time to diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
People at risk and risk factors for Parkinson’s disease.
People at risk:
- The disease is more common in people over the age of 60.
- Men are more often affected than women for unknown reasons.
- A person who has a parent with the disease has a higher risk of developing the disease themselves. But the genetic contribution would be especially important for those who develop the disease when they are young.
People with PD often experience periods of depression. Researchers are now investigating the hypothesis that depression is a predisposing factor for the disease. However, this has yet to be proven. It may be that for some it is just an early manifestation of the disease.
Prevention of Parkinson’s disease
There is no medically recognized way to prevent Parkinson’s disease. However, research shows the following.
Men who consume caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, cola) in moderation (1 to 4 cups per day) may benefit from a protective effect against Parkinson’s disease, according to large cohort studies. A study in a Chinese population showed the same effect. However, the protective effect has not been as clearly demonstrated in women. Nevertheless, an 18-year cohort study showed that the risk of Parkinson’s disease decreased in coffee drinkers who did not take hormone replacement therapy during menopause. In contrast, the combined use of hormone replacement and caffeine would increase the risk.
Drinking one to four cups of green tea per day also appears to prevent Parkinson’s disease, an effect thought to be due at least in part to the caffeine contained in green tea. In men, the most effective doses are in the range of about 400 mg to about 2.5 g of caffeine per day or at least 5 cups of green tea per day.
In addition, people who are dependent on tobacco are less likely to be affected by Parkinson’s disease. According to a meta-analysis published in 2012, this risk is reduced by 56% in smokers compared to non-smokers. Nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine and thus compensates for the dopamine deficit found in patients. However, this benefit does not weigh against all the diseases that smoking can cause, including various cancers.
Several meta-analyses suggest that ibuprofen may be associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease. Data for other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are conflicting, with some meta-analyses concluding that NSAIDs are associated with a lower risk of disease, while others report no significant association.