“ASK THE DOCTOR” WITH DR. REBECCA GILBERT
Q: My husband was just told that he may have Parkinson’s disease — where do we go from here?
A: A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) can be overwhelming but with the right information and medical care, your husband will hopefully be able to continue living his best life. The first thing to do is to make an appointment with a movement disorders physician who has specialized training in PD. If you need help finding a doctor in your area, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-223-2732. Next, read credible information about PD so that you are educated about the disease. APDA has a lot of great resources on our website. Our PD handbook provides a helpful overview and is a great place to start (which is also available in Spanish and Simplified Chinese).
Q: Do concussions cause Parkinson’s disease?
A: Traumatic brain injury does increase the risk of PD by a small amount. However, increasing the risk of PD is not the same thing as directly causing PD. This risk adds to all the other risk factors that a person is subjected to including genetic risk, exposure to toxins in the environment, and other factors (some of which may not even have been identified) to determine whether or not a person eventually develops PD.
Q: Is there a definitive test for Parkinson’s disease?
A: Typically, people with PD demonstrate very characteristic findings on clinical exam. Therefore, for most people, PD can be diagnosed relatively easily based on clinical exam alone. However, for those whom the diagnosis is more challenging, there are several options available. There is an imaging test called a DaTscan. There is also a test of the cerebral spinal fluid (via a lumbar puncture) and one of the skin (via a skin biopsy), which can give more information on whether a person has the pathological features of PD. Please be aware that none of these three tests can distinguish between PD and similar neurodegenerative diseases, so the testing still has its limitations.