A close-up of two wrinkled hands holding a cane.Parkinsonism is a term used to describe any neurological condition that causes symptoms similar to that of Parkinson’s disease. These symptoms often include tremors, stiff muscles, and balance problems.

Parkinson’s disease is a type of Parkinsonism and the most common cause of its symptoms. Parkinson’s disease accounts for 70% of all diagnosed cases of Parkinsonism. However, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative illness, whereas Parkinsonism is used to describe a neurological syndrome, or collection of observable symptoms. Because there are many types and possible causes of Parkinsonism, doctors must do a thorough assessment before offering a diagnosis.

What Is Parkinsonism?

Parkinsonism, also referred to as atypical Parkinson’s or secondary Parkinson’s, covers a wide range of neurological issues that share a common core of symptoms. These classic symptoms are referred to as TRAP symptoms. TRAP stands for tremor, rigidity, akinesia, and postural instability.

What Causes Parkinsonism?

It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of Parkinsonism. Researchers believe both genetic and environmental factors play a part in Parkinsonism. Although there are many types and many possible causes, researchers know dopamine-producing cells are affected in every form of Parkinsonism. This causes problems with the body’s ability to control movement.

Some of the known health problems associated with the condition include, but are not limited to:

Symptoms of Parkinsonism

Parkinsonism and Parkinson’s disease have several symptoms in common. However, symptoms of the various types of Parkinsonism extend beyond those of Parkinson’s Disease.

Common symptoms for Parkinson’s and Parkinsonism:

  • Resting tremor
  • Stiff muscles or rigidity
  • Slow movements
  • Postural instability
  • Akinesia or loss of voluntary movement
  • Restlessness, agitation, and discomfort
  • Cognitive changes

Symptoms unique to Parkinsonism (Non-Parkinson’s):

  • Memory loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Urinary problems
  • Aphasia or the inability to understand spoken/written language
  • Apraxia or the inability to complete simple tasks
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty moving the eyes
  • Voice problems, swallowing difficulty, and drooling
  • Problems with gait

Parkinsonism and Mental Health

There are many medical treatment options available for people diagnosed with Parkinsonism. These options include:

  • Discontinuation of symptom-causing drugs
  • Medication for symptom relief
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Healthy nutrition and regular exercise
  • Surgery
  • Rehabilitative therapy

In addition to the medical treatments above, mental health treatment from a qualified therapist or counselor should also be considered. Symptoms of Parkinsonism are painful, exhausting, and usually progressive. Changes in mobility and appearance can affect self-esteem and lead to debilitating mental health issues.

Not only do those in treatment and their loved ones experience cycles of grief and loss, but those diagnosed with Parkinsonism are also at risk for other mental health issues. For example, depression and anxiety are common among people diagnosed with Parkinson’s and other atypical forms, and some studies show depression is linked to a faster progression of symptoms.

Mental health treatments that may be helpful include:

The above therapies may be instrumental in the healing process and can provide beneficial support for those adjusting to their parkinsonism diagnosis.


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Last Updated: 04-10-2018

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  • Mary

    August 28th, 2019 at 11:24 AM

    Lyme Disease and the encephalopathy which may result can also later manifest as Parkinsonian symptoms, but may still resolve with proper diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics. Erly treatment is key to fullest recovery from LD.

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