Tuesday, 25 September 2018 08:00

Understanding the difference between Parkinson’s and Parkinsonism

Did you know that there is a spin-off of the disease Parkinson’s, commonly known as Parkinsonism? The reason it’s called a ‘spin-off Parkinson’s’ is because essentially it’s the same disease. However, Parkinsonism is usually combined with symptoms related to an additional cognitive condition.

Essentially, a person with Parkinsonism will suffer from another neurological disorder, in combination with Parkinson’s disease, such as dementia.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is the more common disease of the two and refers to the dysfunction of the brain that produces the chemical transmitter, dopamine. Dopamine works to transmit signals between the brain and nerve cells, therefore being responsible for controlled movement throughout the body. Due to the dysfunction of dopamine, those with Parkinson’s are unable to control these movements.

Some of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s include difficulty in displaying facial expressions, muscle stiffness, slow movement, affected or disordered movement and hand tremors.

How does Parkinsonism differentiate from Parkinson’s?

While those suffering with Parkinsonism will display some of the above symptoms, they will not typically display them all. Instead, they will present with a number of other symptoms caused by an additional disorder that affects cognitive function. A common example is that people with Parkinsonism will not display a hand tremor, a typical symptom of Parkinson’s.

Common symptoms of Parkinsonism include:

  • Dementia
  • Issues with controlled movements and frequent muscle spasms
  • Early onset issues with balance and co-ordination
  • Rapid onset and progression of symptoms, much quicker than those suffering from Parkinson’s.

What causes Parkinsonism?

The onset of this disease is caused by Parkinson’s itself. However, a number of underlying conditions can contribute to Parkinsonism symptoms. Just some of these conditions may include:

  • Corticobasal degeneration which brings on the onset of dementia, affecting movement usually on one side of the body.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies which affects overall alertness and causes visual hallucinations.
  • Multiple system atrophy which affects co-ordination and autonomic function, leading to incontinence.
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy which leads to the onset of dementia, issues with balance, restrictive eye movement and Parkinson’s symptoms.

So, what can be done to treat Parkinsonism?

A commonly prescribed medication to help alleviate symptoms of Parkinsonism is levodopa which works to increase levels of dopamine in the brain. But because people with Parkinsonism not only display issues with dopamine levels, levodopa is not exclusively successful.

As a result, the treatment of Parkinsonism also depends on the other cognitive conditions a person suffers from, so both diseases will need to be treated in conjunction with the other. Doctors will also prescribe regular occupational and physical therapy to help keep muscles strong.

While it is a difficult condition to live with, there are plenty of treatment options and consistent research is being done to improve upon these treatments!

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