Go back to Tremor Resources home

How Do You Test For Parkinson’s Disease?

While there are some tests that could be helpful in a Parkinson’s diagnosis, the current standard for diagnosis is mostly clinical. Unfortunately, there is no blood test or lab test that can give a conclusive result as to whether an individual has Parkinson’s disease.

According to experts at Johns Hopkins Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is based on symptomatic presentation. While there are some tests that might aid in diagnosis, it requires a doctor with a lot of experience with Parkinson’s disease to arrive at the proper diagnosis.

In this article, we’ll discuss the early signs of Parkinson’s disease, the typical process of diagnosis, and how the disease is treated.


What Are The Early Signs Of Parkinson’s Disease?

If you are wondering how to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, you need to be familiar with some of the early warning signs and symptoms. The faster a Parkinson’s diagnosis can be made, the sooner the treatment process can begin.

Some of the most common early Parkinson’s disease symptoms include:

  • Tremor: A rhythmic shaking in a single limb or finger is often found early on in Parkinson’s disease. Although it is often confused for essential tremor (ET), the two disorders are vastly different and require a doctor’s examination in order to distinguish between Parkinson’s and ET.
  • Bradykinesia: Another common symptom of Parkinson’s is called bradykinesia. This means slowed movement. People who have Parkinson’s typically do not move as quickly or smoothly due to the disorder’s impact on motor skills.
  • Rigid Muscles: People with Parkinson’s also tend to have rigid muscles. They might feel a bit stiff, which can make it hard for them to take the stairs or do work around the house. Rigid muscles can also lead to some mild discomfort as the disease progresses.
  • Poor Posture: People with Parkinson’s disease might also have poor posture and often appear to be stooped over or demonstrate difficulty standing up straight.
  • Poor Balance: Because of the impact it has on the muscles, it can also make it hard for people with Parkinson’s to balance, making it difficult to stand for long periods or walk with a normal gait.
  • Changes in Speech: Parkinson’s disease is something that can impact all of the muscles throughout the body. This includes the muscles around the mouth, which means that people with Parkinson’s disease might also have a hard time speaking. This could manifest as slowed speech or stammering.
  • Writing Changes: Because of the disorder’s characteristic tremors, individuals with Parkinson’s disease can also have a hard time with their handwriting. They might have a difficult time writing large letters and may struggle to hold a writing utensil.

These are a few of the most common early symptoms that go along with Parkinson’s disease. It is important for anyone who thinks they have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to reach out to a medical professional as early as possible.

How Is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?

According to Johns Hopkins:

“There is no lab or imaging test that is recommended or definitive for Parkinson’s disease. However, in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an imaging scan called the DaTscan. This technique allows doctors to see detailed pictures of the brain’s dopamine system.”

Although there is no official test for Parkinson’s disease, there are various examinations and scans that the doctor can leverage to support or refute a Parkinson’s diagnosis.


The following observations can help physician’s identify characteristics of Parkinson’s disease in order to reach a diagnosis.

  • Expression: The doctor will take a look at the facial expression of the patient to see if his or her expressions have changed due to Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Speech: Parkinson’s disease can have an impact on the way someone speaks, causing them to have delayed or shaky speech, slurring, or stammering.
  • Neck and Extremities: The doctor may ask the patient to move his or her neck or extremities to look for signs of stiffness or rigidity.
  • Walking: Gait and balance can be impaired as a result of Parkinson’s disease. Observing an individual’s walk can help doctors identify signs of the disorder.
  • Writing and Handheld Tasks: Individuals with Parkinson’s disease may have difficulty holding items or performing tasks such as writing or lifting objects over their head.
  • Balance and Posture: Finally, the doctor will also examine the patient’s balance and posture to see if there are any changes, such as stooping or difficulty standing upright.

With these preliminary exams, the physician can determine whether any further testing, such as an MRI or DATscan, is required.

Further MRI Testing

While an MRI cannot confirm that someone has Parkinson’s disease, the doctor might order an MRI to look for changes in the brain that could help rule out other diagnoses . An MRI uses a powerful magnet and generates an image based on the changes in the spin of the nuclei. The doctor will need to combine the image with the clinical information above to make a final diagnosis.


In addition to an MRI, the doctor might order a DaTscan. This is a functional scan of the brain, while the MRI is a structural scan of the brain. In a DaTscan, a physician can interpret the brain’s dopamine activity to reach or refute a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

How Is Parkinson’s Disease Treated?

If the doctor makes a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, the next step is to start the treatment process. Like other conditions, the sooner the treatment process begins, the better the prognosis will probably be. There are a few options that could play a role in the treatment process. They include:


There are a handful of medications that the doctor might use to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but there is no cure. These medications can help with movement issues and tremors. People with Parkinson’s disease tend to have lower levels of dopamine than normal, so many medications are geared toward helping people with this condition increase their dopamine levels. One of the most common examples is called Carbidopa-Levodopa. There are different ways this medication can be administered, and the doctor will talk about your options with you. The doctor might also use dopamine agonists, which are designed to mimic the impacts of dopamine on your brain, but they do not increase dopamine levels themselves.

A few other examples of medications that the doctor might prescribe include COMT inhibitors, anticholinergics, and Amantadine.

Surgical Treatment

There is also some evidence that certain surgical procedures can help in treating Parkinson’s disease. For example, deep brain stimulation, usually shortened to DBS, can be helpful in some cases. This is a treatment option that involves sending light electrical impulses throughout certain areas of the brain to alleviate stiffness and treat symptoms. This can be helpful in controlling the side effects of some of the medications mentioned above as well. It can help people with movement issues, but it may not address all symptoms. It is critical to talk about this treatment option with a medical professional before moving forward.

Consider Cala TAPS Therapy For Help With Essential Tremor

If you have movement issues, you need to reach out to your physician for diagnosis. There are different disorders that could cause abnormal movement, and one of the most common examples is essential tremor. Essential tremor, or ET, is a disorder that is commonly confused with Parkinson’s disease, but affects nearly eight times as many Americans.

ET is a neurological disorder that — similarly to Parkinson’s — causes involuntary shaking and movement challenges, particularly in the hands and head. Although it is not curable, there are a variety of treatment options to help alleviate symptoms.

Cala TAPS therapy is an innovative wrist-worn device that addresses essential tremor symptoms of the hands by stimulating the nerves that cause ET. Movement disorders such as essential tremor can impact your ability to perform daily tasks and live life confidently, but there is hope. If you’ve been diagnosed with essential tremor that affects your hands, consult your doctor to learn more about Cala TAPS therapy today.