Measuring progression and Parkinson’s disease stages
To figure out what stage of Parkinson’s disease a patient is now in, doctors often refer to one or two rating scales designed to measure PD progression, based primarily on the severity of impaired movement and how much Parkinson’s is interfering with daily activities.
The Hoehn and Yahr scale is a commonly used system for describing Parkinson's disease progression, using a simple rating scale first introduced in 1967. Doctors rate individual motor symptoms on a scale of 1 to 5 — with 1 and 2 representing early stage symptoms, 2 and 3 indicating mid-stage symptoms, and 4 and 5 used to note there is advanced, late-stage Parkinson’s disease progression.
Doctors also often use the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), a more comprehensive scale that factors in non-motor symptoms, including social interaction problems, mood swings, memory loss and other mental functioning problems. The UPDRS notes how much difficulty PD patients have in carrying out their daily routines, too.
How knowing the stages of Parkinson’s disease can help patients
If you or someone you know has PD, knowing the typical stages of Parkinson’s disease can help you cope with changes as they occur. However, it’s important to understand symptoms and disease progression are unique to each person. Some PD patients experience multiple Parkinson’s disease symptoms and others don’t. For example, one person may have a tremor, but they maintain their sense of balance.
What’s more, it may take 20 years or longer for a PD patient to progress through all the stages of Parkinson’s disease, while others experience a fast progression. And even though symptoms do worsen over time, some patients with Parkinson’s disease have symptoms that never progress to stage five, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
March 16, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN