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Diseases that look like Parkinson's

BMJ Group Medical Reference

About 1 in 10 people with symptoms that look like Parkinson's disease don't have Parkinson's disease. [4] They have another problem instead.

Doctors may call these problems parkinsonism, because they look like Parkinson's disease.

Here are some things that cause symptoms similar to Parkinson's. [36]


Some drugs, especially those used to treat mental illnesses, nausea, or dizziness, can cause symptoms that look like Parkinson's, such as trembling. The symptoms go away when you stop taking the drugs.

Multiple strokes

This happens when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted by lots of little strokes. The brain is damaged slowly and over a long period of time from the small strokes. The damage can cause symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease.

Other conditions

The symptoms of Parkinson's may appear in people with other diseases that lead to a decrease of dopamine in the brain. Brain cells use dopamine to send messages to other parts of the brain, and to nerves and muscles throughout your body. To learn more, see What is Parkinson's disease?

These diseases include:

Harmful substances

Some harmful substances such as manganese and carbon monoxide can cause symptoms that look like Parkinson's. The symptoms usually go away when the substance is removed.

Post-encephalitic parkinsonism

This is when people get symptoms that look like Parkinson's disease after having an infection in their brain caused by a virus. It's very rare today.

However, in the 1920s many people got an infection called sleeping sickness. Many of those who recovered then got symptoms of Parkinson's disease weeks or years later. The film Awakenings recounts how the drug levodopa was able to temporarily awaken some people in a New York hospital.

Parkinsonism caused by repeated knocks to the head

This can happen to boxers who have suffered brain damage because of repeated blows to the head.

Last Updated: February 04, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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