There are a number of other movement disorders that are similar to Parkinson’s but have some unique features that distinguish them from Parkinson’s, these are sometimes referred to as Parkinson's-plus syndromes.
MULTIPLE SYSTEM ATROPHY (MSA)
Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is a rare neurological condition. It is caused by a gradual loss of nerve cells and shrinkage of the brain cells in the basal ganglia, cerebellum and brain stem - all of which control movement, balance and the automatic functions of the body (such as the bladder). MSA is a progressive condition with no known cure at present. However, treatments and therapies are available to help manage symptoms of MSA. Research into MSA is currently underway giving some hope for the future, particularly in relation to more effective management of symptoms.
Symptoms vary from person to person and may resemble Parkinson’s disease, for example stiff muscles and balance problems along with constipation, bladder problems, sleep disturbance and orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing up). MSA tends to progress more rapidly than Parkinson's.
MSA is difficult to diagnose. It is common for people with early symptoms of MSA to be misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A limited response to Parkinson’s medications is an indicator of the need to review a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Because MSA is rare, many doctors are unaware of the condition. A neurologist visit is essential as they are more likely to be up-to-date with the latest advances in treatment and management.
PROGRESSIVE SUPRANUCLEAR PALSY
Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) is a rare neurological condition affecting the parts of the brain that control walking, eye movements, balance, speech and swallowing. Symptoms can be managed with a range of therapies and treatments, but symptoms become progressively worse over time. There are currently around 1,300 Australians diagnosed with PSP.
Corticobasal Syndrome (CBS) (sometimes called Corticobasal Degeneration) is a rare progressive neurological condition which involves a gradual loss of brain cells in the areas of the brain that look after movement and thinking. In its early stages CBS may be initially diagnosed as Parkinson's as the symptoms are similar. CBS usually progresses over the course of 6 to 8 years, during this time the patient’s ability to live and function independently will diminish.
Although there is no treatment for CBS, therapy does help to manage the symptoms.
Dystonia is a movement disorder characterised by sustained or intermittent muscle contractions causing abnormal, often repetitive movements, postures, or both. Dystonic movements are typically patterned and twisting, and may be tremulous. Dystonia is often initiated or worsened by voluntary action and associated with overflow muscle activation.
LEWY BODY DISEASE OR DEMENTIA
Lewy body disease is caused by the degeneration and death of nerve cells in the brain. The name comes from the presence of abnormal spherical structures, called Lewy bodies, which develop inside nerve cells. It may be hard to distinguish Lewy body disease from Parkinson's disease or from other forms of dementia. Some people with Parkinson's disease also develop a dementia which is similar to that seen in Lewy body disease.
The main symptoms of Lewy Body Disease are visual hallucinations, Parkinsonism (tremors and stiffness similar to that seen in Parkinson's disease) and fluctuation in mental state so that the person may be lucid and clear at one time and confused, disoriented and bewildered at other times.
Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s disease are different disorders. Essential tremor is characterised by shaking when movement is initiated, which can continue or worsen during movement. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include involuntary tremor at rest, muscle stiffness, slowness of movement and freezing.
The Parkinson’s State/Territory offices can offer information and support to those with other movement disorders in addition to Parkinson’s.