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Types of Parkinsonism & How they’re Diagnosed

Affinity Health, a leading provider of affordable medical insurance, talks about the different types of Parkinson’s and how they’re diagnosed.


The year was 1817. James Parkinson, a doctor in London, began research into what might have caused an onset of tremors in three of his patients. They also showed slowed movement, rigid muscles, impaired balance, and speech changes. These symptoms would later become the classic signs of Parkinson’s disease.


Today we know that Parkinson’s disease is attributed to about 85 percent of parkinsonism cases. Fast forward a few centuries later, and our understanding of Parkinson’s has evolved tremendously, yielding improved treatments and hope for the future.


What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition that causes movement difficulties and worsens over time. The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates that one percent of people over the age of 65 are affected.


Studies show that the disease causes certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain that produce dopamine (a chemical messenger) to gradually break down or die. Dopamine deficiency causes abnormal brain activity, which leads to impaired movement and other Parkinson’s disease symptoms.


Different Types of Parkinson’s

The most common cause of parkinsonism is Parkinson’s disease, which generally affects people aged 55 to 65, but can occur in those under the age of 50.


While the exact cause for Parkinson’s disease is unknown, researchers believe genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of Parkinson’s.


Notable figures with Parkinson’s include Michael J. Fox, Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Diamond, and the late Bob Hoskins and Muhammad Ali.


According to the Parkinson’s Disease Society of the UK, other types of Parkinson’s include:

  • Juvenile and young-onset Parkinson’s disease
  • Drug-induced parkinsonism
  • Multiple system atrophy
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Corticobasal syndrome
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Vascular parkinsonism
  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus


How Is Each Type of Parkinson’s Diagnosed?

While no single test can diagnosis Parkinson’s disease, a doctor trained in neurogenerative conditions can rule out other possible causes before reaching a diagnosis.


“Although Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured, medications can significantly improve symptom control,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


“Your doctor may also advise you to make lifestyle changes, such as regular aerobic exercise. A speech-language pathologist may be able to assist you with your speech issues. Physical therapy that focuses on balance and stretching can be beneficial in some cases, while surgery may be recommended in some more advanced cases.”


Download the Affinity Health’s Chronic Disease Benefit 


Living with and managing Parkinson’s can be challenging, especially after coming out of the hospital. Affinity Health has teamed up with an established Nurses Network to provide Palliative and Post-Hospital Care to patients.


Affinity Health’s multidisciplinary national network of nurses is available to assist members with telephonic counselling and support, as well as comprehensive home-based care.


About Affinity Health

Affinity Health aims to provide premier quality, affordable medical insurance to South Africans. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service when they are faced with injury or illness. We work to deliver innovative solutions that are simple, cost-effective, and proven, so our cover is structured to ensure that you get exactly what you need. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.




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