New test first to accurately diagnose Parkinson's

Published On: Mar 20 2012 10:40:59 AM EDT   Updated On: Mar 20 2012 07:07:07 PM EDT

As many as 1 million Americans are living with Parkinson's disease, but many are misdiagnosed in the early stages of the disease. Now, a new test is helping give doctors and patients a conclusive diagnosis.


In 2007, Harriet Seidman started having mild tremors that led her doctor to conclude she had Parkinson's disease.

"I accepted the diagnosis, and every day I thought I was getting worse and everything that happened to me I thought was Parkinson's," Seidman said.

At the time, the only way to diagnose Parkinson's was through a series of observations and evaluations that were never entirely conclusive.

Now, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic Florida are working with a diagnostic tool that eliminates the guesswork.

"We can actually see the metabolic structure of the basal ganglia, where we believe the symptoms of Parkinson's disease sort of start," said Dr. Nestor Galvez, a neurologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston.

The test involves injecting the patient with a radiopharmaceutical dye that works with imaging tools to detect dopamine transporters in the brain.

A lack of dopamine can affect the ability to control body movements.

"If the person wants to know and he has questions in his mind, sometimes the test just helps to put things to rest," said Galvez.

The test not only confirms the presence of Parkinson's but also serves as a baseline to evaluate progression of the disease, allowing a doctor and patient to determine a course of action.

"So the person who is at the active phases of their life, they're working and they're active and they have this becoming a nuisance, you can actually treat them now with more conviction," said Galvez.

The test showed conclusively that Seidman does have a mild form of Parkinson's, which she actually finds reassuring.

"It allows me to know what my limitations are and what I can expect," she said.


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