A Useful Glossary Parkinson’s Terms

Our main goal at Charco Neurotech is to improve the quality of life for those living with or around Parkinson’s and reducing their symptoms with innovative technology.

One of the ways we do that is to share the realities of living with the condition, raising awareness of the challenges of everyday life for people living with Parkinson’s. By doing this, we hope to highlight where a little patience and understanding can go a long way – education is key. To help with this, we have collated a few of the more common terms (with relevant and useful links) used in discussions related to Parkinson’s. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we will add to it as we touch on different topics in our stories.

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About Parkinson’s


Describes the syndrome of muscle rigidity, tremor, and bradykinesia. These are found in Parkinson’s and many other conditions including vascular, drug-induced and atypical Parkinsonism.


Parkinson’s Stages

There are five defined ‘Hoehn and Yahr stages’ of Parkinson’s. While everyone’s symptoms will differ, and often occur at different times, in a different order, there are five generally agreed stages of progression.


Drug-induced Parkinsonism (Type of PD)

In rare cases, neuroleptic drugs have been known to cause Parkinsonism. Drugs which block the action of the chemical dopamine in the brain – used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders – are thought to be the biggest cause of drug-induced parkinsonism. Drug-induced parkinsonism affects a small number of people and only in rare cases do the symptoms progress in the same way as PD.


Idiopathic PD (Type of PD)

Most people are diagnosed with idiopathic PD, commonly called Parkinson’s. Idiopathic means the cause is not understood.


Vascular Parkinsonism (Type of PD)

Vascular parkinsonism (‘arteriosclerotic’ parkinsonism) affects people whose brain’s blood supply has been affected. People who have suffered a mild stroke may sometimes develop this form of parkinsonism.


Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD)

Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease is the name given to the condition when it affects someone under the age of 50. Some believe it is a different syndrome altogether, with varying symptoms. What is agreed is there are very different psychological and social challenges when diagnosed with YOPD.



A chemical produced in the brain, responsible for the transmission of signals between nerve cells that control movement. A decrease in dopamine levels is the primary factor in Parkinson’s.


Imaging in Parkinson’s

Computerised Tomography (CT) Scan

This scan involves X-rays being passed through the body in different directions to build up cross-section images of the brain. It can eliminate other conditions such as vascular disease and tumours which can have Parkinson’s-like symptoms.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan

This uses magnetic charges to relay images of the brain and helps distinguish between Parkinson’s from similar conditions.


Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

This technique is mainly used in research as it is more expensive and not as readily available as a SPECT scan. It involves using radioactivity and gamma rays.


“Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) Scan (also known as DaTSCAN™)”

A SPECT scan is an imaging Scan which reveals information about the way your blood is flowing through your body – specifically to and around the brain. You have a tiny injection of tracer fluid, which is picked up the scanner. You lie on a table and the camera rotates around you.


Schwab and England Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Scale

An estimation of the abilities of a person’s degree of independence. The person (or a family member) can self-assess.


Symptoms and Signs of Parkinson’s

Autonomic Dysfunction

Irregular functioning of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This leads to issues with bodily functions like bowel and bladder control, blood pressure, sweating and control of saliva, among others.



Thinking slowly, a common symptom of many brain disorders.


Freezing of Gait (FOG)

Sudden inability to walk or to continue walking. Episodes are usually brief.



Reduced level of movement. It is often wrongly confused with akinesia and bradykinesia.


Muscle stiffness (rigidity)

Stiffness and tension in the muscles, which can make it difficult to move around and make facial expressions, sometimes resulting in painful muscle cramps (dystonia). One of 3 ‘cardinal’ symptoms of PD, used in diagnosis.


Olfactory dysfunction

Reduced sense of smell. Believed to be an early sign of Parkinson’s.


Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)

Slower than usual physical movements, which can make everyday tasks difficult. Often seen with a distinctive slow, shuffling walk with shortened steps. One of 3 ‘cardinal’ symptoms of PD, used in diagnosis.


Tremor (pill-rolling)

A distinctive tremor in Parkinson’s, where the thumb and forefinger involuntary move in a way that appears to be rolling a small pill.


Tremor (resting)

Shaking (usually in the limbs), which often begins in the hand or arm and is likely to occur when the limb is relaxed. One of 3 ‘cardinal’ symptoms of PD, used in diagnosis.


The ‘On, Off’ Phenomenon

When medicated for PD symptoms, patients may alternate quickly between being “off,” or experiencing no relief from medication, and being “on,” but with disabling dyskinesias (the “on/off” phenomenon).


Treatment of Parkinson’s

Controlled Release Drugs

Special types of drugs that release the chemicals into the body slowly and steadily rather than all at once. They keep the level of the drug in the bloodstream steadier than the ‘ordinary’ version of the same drug.



Levodopa is one of the three main types of medication commonly used in the treatment of Parkinson’s. It helps the brain replace dopamine, which is needed for movement. It can have side effects and your body can build up an immunity to it requiring higher doses. It is the main treatment for prescribed for PD.


Dopamine Agonists

Dopamine Agonists trick the body into thinking it has the dopamine it needs (rather than actually converting it like levodopa). It is quick acting for immediate relief but short-lived and can be administered by a pen in emergencies. Agonists are one of the three main types of medication prescribed for Parkinson’s.


MAO-B Inhibitors

Monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) inhibitors, including selegiline and rasagiline, are another alternative to levodopa for treating early Parkinson’s. One of the three main medications prescribed initially, they have a milder effect than levodopa so can be administered effectively at the beginning of a treatment plan or alongside other medications.


If you have any suggestions for Parkinson’s related terms to include, or would like any terms explaining, please drop us a comment or send a message.

We hope this glossary has been useful!

The Charco Team



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