Types of Parkinson's and parkinsonism
Parkinson's, which is sometimes referred to as idiopathic
Parkinson's, is the most common form of parkinsonism.
We are here for people with all types of parkinsonism.
Steve Ford, our chief executive
Parkinsonism is an umbrella term that describes many conditions
which share some of the symptoms of Parkinson's.
The main symptoms of Parkinson's –
tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement – are also the main
symptoms of a number of conditions that are grouped together under
the term 'parkinsonism'.
We look here at the different forms of parkinsonism.
You can also read more in our Parkinsonism information sheet.
Idiopathic Parkinson's disease
Idiopathic Parkinson's disease - or Parkinson's - is the most
common type of parkinsonism. Unlike some other forms which have
specific causes it is not known why idiopathic Parkinson's
The main symptoms of idiopatic Parkinson's are tremor, rigidity
and slowness of movement.
Symptoms and the rate at which the condition progresses vary
from person to person. This can make diagnosis difficult.
An early diagnosis means that treatment
for Parkinson's can begin sooner, which may be more
the ways doctors diagnose idiopathic Parkinson's is by seeing if
there is a response to Parkinson's
If there is no change then the symptoms may point to another
form of parkinsonism.
When this happens, the term 'atypical parkinsonism' is often
The term early onset Parkinson's is
used when people are diagnosed under the age of 40.
Read more on how Parkinson's is diagnosed in our information sheet on diagnosing
Vascular parkinsonism is one of the atypical forms of
The most likely causes of vascular parkinsonism are hypertension
and diabetes. A stroke (cerebrovascular accident), cardiac disease
or carotid artery pathology (another form of stroke) may also be
Symptoms of vascular parkinsonism may include difficulty
speaking, making facial expressions or swallowing.
Other signs can include problems with memory or confused
thought, cognitive problems and incontinence.
Like Parkinson's, vascular parkinsonism is a progressive
condition, with symptoms developing and changing over time.
Read more in our Vascular parkinsonism
A small number (around 7%) of people diagnosed with parkinsonism
have developed their symptoms following treatment with particular
Drugs - known as neuroleptic drugs - used to treat schizophrenia
and other psychotic disorders block dopamine. These drugs are
thought to be the biggest cause of drug-induced parkinsonism.
Dopamine is a chemical in the brain which allows messages to be
sent to the parts of the brain that co-ordinate movement.
The symptoms of Parkinson's appear when the level of dopamine
The symptoms of drug-induced parkinsonism tend to be static.
Only in rare cases do they change in the manner that the symptoms
of Parkinson's do.
Most people will recover within months, and often within hours
or days, of stopping the drug that caused the dopamine block.
Our Drug-induced parkinsonism
information sheet lists the drugs that are known to cause the
Dementia with Lewy bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies is similar, in some ways, to
Symptoms differ slightly from Parkinson's and include problems
with memory and concentration, attention, language and the ability
to carry out simple actions.
People who have dementia with Lewy bodies commonly experience
visual hallucinations and some Parkinson's-type symptoms, such as
slowness of movement, stiffness and tremor.
Dementia with Lewy bodies is also a progressive condition, which
means that the symptoms can become worse over time. Currently,
there is no cure or treatment for the condition.
More about dementia with Lewy bodies and
Parkinson's dementia - including treatment and management, and
support for people with dementia and their carers and families
There is no conclusive evidence that Parkinson's is a hereditary
condition that can be passed on within families, apart from in
exceptionally rare cases.
It is thought that although it is not directly inherited, some
people may have genes that increase the possibility of developing
People who have genes that are prone to Parkinson's may be more
likely to develop the condition when combined with other factors,
such as environmental toxins or viruses.
At present, it is estimated that up to 5% of people with
Parkinson's may have a genetic cause.
The role genetics may play in the development of Parkinson's is
currently the subject of much research.
Our Genetic testing information
sheet gives more information.
You can also read about research we're
funding into the causes of Parkinson's.
Juvenile Parkinson's is a term used when the condition affects
people under the age of 20.
Read more in our Juvenile Parkinson's
Other types of atypical parkinsonism
A diagnosis indicating that someone doesn't have Parkinson's but
does have another unknown condition can be unsettling.
In some cases the symptoms that allow doctors to make a specific
diagnosis appear slowly, over a longer period of time, as the
If tremor is the only symptom and it seems different from the
tremor found in Parkinson's, then a person may be diagnosed with
Benign Essential Tremor (BET).
Some symptoms may lead to a diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy
(MSA) or Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).
There are organisations that offer help and support for people
diagnosed with these conditions and their families:
Also in this section
Share your experiences of living with Parkinson's
discussion forum is for people with Parkinson's, their carers,
family and friends to chat and share experiences. Everyone affected
by Parkinson's is welcome to join.