Parkinson's disease is named for Dr. James Parkinson, who in 1817 first described the features of this illness. Features of Parkinson's disease include tremor, slow movement (bradykinesia), and rigid muscles (rigidity). People with parkinsonism may have Parkinson's disease or another illness with similar symptoms. Other conditions and diseases that cause parkinsonism may also cause symptoms that are not seen with Parkinson's disease. These conditions may be treated differently than Parkinson's disease. Unlike Parkinson's, some conditions that cause parkinsonism are reversible.
Parkinson's-plus syndromes are a group of disorders characterized by the degeneration of nerve cells in different parts of the brain. They include progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and multiple system atrophy (MSA), among others. Parkinson's-plus syndromes have parkinsonian features as well as features that are not associated with Parkinson's disease. These syndromes usually respond poorly to levodopa or dopamine agonists.
Secondary or symptomatic parkinsonism describes the syndrome of parkinsonism when it occurs as the result of an identifiable cause. For example, certain medicines, brain tumors, strokes, infections (such as encephalitis), and toxins (such as carbon monoxide or manganese) can cause secondary parkinsonism.
It may be helpful for people with Parkinson's disease and their families to be familiar with some of the ways the disease is described. Experts describe symptoms and stages of the disease differently.
Parkinson's disease sometimes is described as early, moderate, or advanced.