Neurological exam for Parkinson's disease

A detailed neurological exam should be part of a standard physical exam to diagnose Parkinson's disease and to separate Parkinson's disease from other conditions. A skilled primary care doctor will most likely be able to do this. If your doctor is unsure, he or she may send you to a neurologist, which is a doctor who specializes in disorders of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and muscles).

During this exam, your doctor will observe your movement, coordination, and balance. You may be asked to complete a few physical tasks, such as walking up and down a hall or getting up from a chair. The doctor also will watch for any rapid, repetitive movements, such as finger-tapping or tremor. Simple tests may be used to evaluate your muscle strength and control, reflexes, sensation (such as the ability to feel a pinprick or a light touch), and vision.

The neurological exam also will include a brief assessment of your mental ability and emotional condition. The doctor may ask you to repeat a series of numbers or to answer simple questions about dates, places, and current events. The doctor usually can judge your emotional condition during the exam by paying attention to your actions and statements and by asking direct questions about your mood and emotions.

The doctor will also listen to your heart and lungs and may perform other routine examinations.

Last Updated: December 8, 2008

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