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Parkinsonism, also called atypical Parkinson's or Parkinson's Plus, is the umbrella term used to describe a group of neurological problems. Parkinson's represents only 10-15% of all diagnosed cases of parkinsonism. Parkinson's is caused mainly by the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain. In contrast, the causes of Parkinsonism are numerous, ranging from the side effects of medications to metabolic disease, toxins, and neurological disease.

Parkinsonism is considered a clinical syndrome in which a person may have some but not all Parkinson's motor symptoms and other symptoms related to an additional condition or cause. These indications can range from low blood pressure to the inability to move one's eyes up and down, to dementia.

There is no definitive test for Parkinson's or parkinsonism. The clinical features of parkinsonism and Parkinson's are similar and often indistinguishable. If you have movement problems including tremors, slow movement, and stillness and wonder whether you have Parkinson's or parkinsonism, you're not alone. It is challenging to identify. People are often diagnosed with Parkinson's when they have another form of parkinsonism.

On the other hand, people can be diagnosed with the general umbrella term parkinsonism when they have Parkinson's. Because the root cause and treatment for each form of Parkinsonism is different, it's critical to obtain an accurate diagnosis; working with a Movement Disorder Specialist is undeniably the best option.

Additionally, those diagnosed with Parkinson's and have an additional diagnosis of Dementia in more advanced stages may find they receive a Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis. Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson's with Dementia present with very similar symptoms. A diagnosis generally appears based on whether cognitive or motor symptoms present first. Treatments are also relatively similar. Your doctor will help you classify which diagnosis is most appropriate based on the severity of your most aggravating symptoms.

The following disorders are among those treated as parkinsonism's, sometimes referred to as atypical Parkinson's:

  • Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a progressive brain disorder that causes problems with gait and balance. The signs and symptoms of PSP include an inability to move the eyes properly (particularly, difficulty looking-down) and alteration of mood and behavior, such as depression or apathy.

  • Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a set of slowly progressive disorders affecting the central and autonomic nervous systems. The signs and symptoms of MSA often include poor coordination, slurred speech, blood pressure regulation problems, swallowing difficulties, mail impotence, constipation, and urinary difficulties.

  • Corticobasal degeneration (CBD) results from atrophy of multiple areas of the brain. The symptoms of CBD include rigidity, dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions), balance difficulties, and problems with coordination.

  • Dementia with Lew Bodies (DLB): is a disorder associated with the same clumps of protein found in Parkinson's (Lewy bodies), but in widespread areas throughout the brain. The pathology of DLB is the same as that of Parkinson's with dementia. They symptoms of DLB include cognitive problems, hallucinations, bradykinesia (slow movement), muscle rigidity, tremor and shuffling walk as well as memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion.


Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's. Every Victory Counts, "Manual" Your Go-To Resource of Essential Information and Inspiration for Living Well with Parkinson's. Sixth Edition, 2021.

Vine, John M. A Parkinson's Primer: An Indispensable Guide to Parkinson's Disease for Patients and Their Families. Parkinsonism's. Pages 22-23. Paul Dry Books. 2017.

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