Vascular parkinsonism

From James Beck, Ph.D., Director of Research Programs

Recently, former President George H.W. Bush revealed in an interview with PARADE Magazine that he has vascular parkinsonism.

While not meeting the criteria for true Parkinson’s disease (PD), vascular parkinsonism mimics many features of PD.  As its name implies, vascular parkinsonism is often due to problems with the vessels in the brain regions that control movement and small strokes are the primary cause.  Although small strokes will cumulatively worsen the symptoms of vascular parkinsonism, it is otherwise not considered a progressive neurodegenerative disease like PD.

People with vascular parkinsonism often experience a “lower body parkinsonism” and have trouble with walking and maintaining balance – much like people with classic Parkinson’s.  President Bush reports that he experiences such symptoms.  Generally, people with vascular PD are less likely to have the tremor of Parkinson’s disease.

Because the cause of vascular parkinsonism is fundamentally different from true PD, people do not always respond well to the current Parkinson’s disease medications.

Like all people who struggle with a neurological disease, President Bush has many obstacles to overcome.  Because his disease can mimic true PD, his story emphasizes the importance of getting an accurate diagnosis from a movement disorders specialist in order to best manage one’s disease.  PDF maintains a nationwide list of movement disorder specialists and encourages you to call (800) 457-6676 or email us at info@pdf.org to find one in your area.

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