Parkinson’s Disease is a condition that affects around 145,000 people in the UK. More people are diagnosed every day. For people wondering whether they have the condition, it can be a stressful experience. Before you can receive a diagnosis, you will need to be assessed by a specialist. However, you may wonder how this assessment works. In this article, we will explain your Parkinson’s assessment.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive condition that affects the brain the nervous system. The damage it causes results in problems with mobility, including stiff movements and involuntary motions. Often this presents in the form of shaking, stiffness, and problems with balance.
These effects worsen over time, as more damage is done to the nervous system. It can also cause fatigue and pain.
Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease
There is no easy way to know whether you have Parkinson’s Disease. However, you may have the condition if you present with any combination of the following signs:
- – Tremors
- – Weaker Voice
- – Smaller Handwriting
- – Loss of Smell
- – Dizziness or Fainting
- – Difficulty Sleeping
- – Restricted Movement or Difficulty Walking
- – Stooping or Hunching
- – Constipation
Experiencing one or more of these symptoms could be a sign that you need to consult with your GP. If they think your symptoms sound like Parkinson’s Disease, they will refer you for a Parkinson’s Assessment.
What Happens in a Parkinson’s Assessment?
Currently, there are no tests that can conclusively show that someone has Parkinson’s. Instead, you will be assessed based on your symptoms, medical history, and a detailed physical examination. You will be asked to outline the problems you have been experiencing and may be asked to perform some basic tasks to help with the diagnosis.
Your doctor will be watching for signs throughout your appointment. In fact, they may pick up on some signs as soon as you walk in the door. The full assessment will be carried out in the following steps.
1. General Inspection
You will be seated during this part of the Parkinson’s Assessment. Your doctor will look for signs of Parkinson’s, such as less frequent blinking or a tremor. This will also be when they begin asking you questions about your symptoms.
2. Tremor Test
Next, they will assess the severity of your tremors – if you have any. They will check whether you are experiencing resting tremors or action tremors. As the names imply, one occurs when you are not using your limbs and the other during actions. Resting tremors are more commonly associated with Parkinson’s Disease, but action tremors are also a sign.
3. Bradykinesia Test
During this element of your Parkinson’s Assessment, you will be asked to perform certain repetitive motions. The intention of this test is to identify any slowness in your voluntary motions. Essentially, struggling to perform repeated motions could be a sign of Parkinson’s. Examples of actions include:
- – Finger tapping
- – Forming a fist then opening your hand again
- – Toe tapping
4. Muscle Tone
Your doctor will also assess your muscle tone. This is because people with Parkinson’s often exhibit increased muscle tone. They will ask you to relax your arm and let them move it around; as they manoeuvre your arm, they will feel for changes in your muscle tone. This test will be performed on both arms.
5. Gait Test
This element of the Parkinson’s Assessment will determine whether you have any problems with posture or movement. The first part of the test will involve standing from a seated position with your arms across your chest; this will also test your balance. Don’t panic – your doctor will be close at hand if you feel unstable.
They will then ask you to walk from one end of the room to the other. As you walk, they will note whether there is any hesitancy in your movements and whether there are any irregularities in your posture or steps. This will also be another opportunity for them to gauge your posture.
6. Final Steps
Towards the end of your appointment, your doctor may ask you to perform additional tasks to help with the Parkinson’s Assessment. They may ask you to write a sentence or draw a spiral, or they may ask you to undo and do up your top button to assess dexterity.
Once the assessment is complete, you will have to wait to hear the results. You are unlikely to receive these on the day of your assessment. It is natural to feel anxious during this time. Your doctor may also need you to attend some additional appointments to rule out other conditions.
Receiving a Parkinson’s Diagnosis
If you receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, it is understandable for you to be upset. However, knowing you have Parkinson’s can make it easier to access support; there is also some degree of reassurance in knowing the reason for your symptoms.
Whilst there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, having a diagnosis will make it easier for doctors to provide treatments. These could include supportive therapies, medications to reduce symptoms or slow progression, and some surgeries. How your Parkinson’s is treated will depend on the severity of your symptoms and receptiveness to other treatments.
For further information on living with Parkinson’s Disease, you can find helpful resources on the Parkinson’s UK website.
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