Diagnosing Parkinson's

Diagnosing Parkinson's

Doctors cannot diagnose Parkinson's disease using a blood test or MRI alone. These tests are used to rule out other causes for your symptoms.

It's best to consult a neurologist (nervous system doctor) or movement disorder specialist (specially trained neurologist) if you suspect you have Parkinson's disease. They can provide a complete examination and evaluation to sort out your symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis and design a treatment plan.

Our team of experienced specialists have been diagnosing and treating Parkinson's disease for more than 30 years and are the resident experts in the Pacific Northwest.

If you recently found out you have Parkinson's disease, please consider attending our Recently Diagnosed Education session. These sessions are offered every other month at the PCO.


The most obvious symptoms of Parkinson's disease are the motor symptoms. Primary symptoms affect your body's movement and muscle coordination. Symptoms not related to movement are called secondary symptoms.

It's important to remember that people with Parkinson's disease will not get all these symptoms. But it helps to understand that these signs and symptoms can be related to Parkinson's disease.

Motor symptoms

Having two or more of these symptoms is a strong sign of Parkinson's disease:

  • Tremor (shaking)
  • Slow movement
  • Muscle stiffness (rigidity)

Other primary symptoms are:

  • Expressionless face (masked face)
  • Small handwriting
  • Shuffling walk with small steps
  • Swinging arms less when walking
  • Soft voice

Problems with balance or swallowing usually happen later in Parkinson's disease.

Non-motor symptoms

  • Low blood pressure or feeling dizzy when you change position
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and trouble swallowing
  • Constipation (difficulty having a bowel movement)
  • Frequent urination or trouble urinating
  • Breathing problems
  • Making more saliva than normal
  • Trouble sleeping at night, feeling sleepy during the day
  • Sleep problems such as vivid dreams, acting-out in dreams, and sleepwalking
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sexual problems
  • Muscle pain or cramping
  • Feeling depressed or anxious, other mood changes
  • Cognitive deficits, changes in thinking, memory loss, problem solving and multi-tasking
  • Problems with vision or sense of smell
  • Feeling too hot or cold

Symptoms related to medications

  • Involuntary body movements (dyskinesia)
  • Compulsive behavior (gambling sexual, spending)
  • Inner restlessness, constant  urge to be moving (akathisia)