Parkinsonisms and Parkinson's Plus Syndromes

If you have been diagnosed, but with Parkinsonism, not Parkinson's, you may be confused about the implications. Because there are no definitive diagnostic tests for Parkinson’s, the diagnosis can sometimes be unclear.

The term “parkinsonism” is a generic descriptive term that refers to the whole category of neurological diseases that causes slowness of movement. The category includes the classic form of Parkinson’s disease, many atypical variants, sometimes called “Parkinson’s Plus Syndromes,” and any other brain disease that resembles Parkinson’s, such as hydrocephalus or drug-induced parkinsonism.

In all cases of parkinsonism, no matter the cause, there is a disturbance in the dopamine systems of the basal ganglia — a part of the brain that controls movement. In all cases, this dopamine deficiency leads to the characteristic combination of tremor, slowness, rigidity and postural instability.

Classic (idiopathic) Parkinson’s is the most common and most treatable form of parkinsonism. For a significant minority, about 15 percent of all persons with parkinsonism, one of the atypical variants may be present. These conditions are more serious and less treatable than classic PD, and include diseases such as:

  • multiple system atrophy (MSA)
  • progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)
  • corticobasal degeneration (CBD)
  • Lewy body dementia (LBD)

Do you need more information or resources specific to one of these Parkinson's Plus syndromes?

Read PDF's Fact Sheet, Understanding Atypical Parkinsonism

More Questions?

Do you have more questions about the symptoms of PD? Ask the experts your questions by email or call our helpline at (800) 457-6676.