By Amy Natt

Question: I have noticed a slight tremor in my hand over the past six months.  It seems to be at its worst when I am trying to pay bills and write checks. When I went in to speak to my primary care physician he used the word “Parkinsonism”.  What exactly does that mean, and what should I do next?

Answer: Medical terminology can be confusing, so that is a great topic to explore.  Your primary care doctor was the right place to start in exploring this tremor and now you can do some of your own research and reading to better educate yourself on the options for next steps.

According to Dr. Dennis Dickson at the Mayo Clinic, “Parkinsonism” is the clinical definition of a variety of different underlying pathologies that can cause Parkinson’s-like symptoms such as slowing of movement, tremor, rigidity or stiffness, and balance problems. There are a number of disorders that can produce the symptoms referred to as Parkinsonisms; Parkinson’s disease is just one of them. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a clinical syndrome characterized by lesions in the basal ganglia, a specific region in the brain. According to the National Center for Movement, PD makes up approximately 80 percentage of cases of Parkinsonism.

Talking to your medical provider about symptoms you are experiencing is important. Getting an early and accurate diagnosis is the best way to make informed choices about your care and ensure the best possible outcome. Typically a full evaluation would be completed by a neurologist or neuropsychologist. Why is it so important to get evaluated? Because there are resources and treatments available as well as community support groups.  The bottom line is, the more you know, the better equipped you will be as you see where those next steps lead you.

The National Parkinson’s Foundation (NPF) recommends that a person with symptoms resembling those of PD consider making an appointment with a movement disorder specialist.  North Carolina is fortunate to have two Centers of Excellence (UNC at Chapel Hill and Duke University Medical Center). If you are a person with Parkinson’s or a care partner and would like more information about how to make an appointment at one of these locations, please call NPF’s free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).