Stroke as a Cause of Parkinson's Disease

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Parkinson's Disease causes tremors and slow movements. In some situations, a stroke can cause some of the symptoms that are very similar to the symptoms characteristic of Parkinson's Disease. This condition is called stroke induced Parkinsonism.  A stroke can cause symptoms of dementia, known as vascular dementia, if the stroke affects the areas of the brain that control memory and judgement. And just as a stroke can cause vascular dementia, a stroke can cause symptoms of Parkinson's disease if the stroke damages the area of the brain that controls coordination and movement etc.

Parkinson's Disease is normally caused by the spontaneous degeneration of areas of the brain which specifically control the initiation, rhythm, and smoothness of our movements, the tone of our muscles, and the mechanisms that allow our bodies to effortlessly maintain a normal posture at all times. As these areas degenerate, these normal mechanisms break down, and the typical symptoms of Parkinson's disease begin to emerge.

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease include a fine tremor, which is very noticeable in the hands and arms and which happens when the hands and arms are at rest. Parkinson's also causes difficulty initiating movements, slowness of movements, stiff muscle tone which makes walking and moving extremely difficult, and an abnormal body posture. Most people who have Parkinson's Disease also have very little facial expression, which is typically called a 'masked face.'

Parkinson's Disease Caused by Stroke - Vascular Parkinsonism

The areas of the brain that are affected spontaneously by Parkinson's disease can also be affected by a buildup of many small strokes which can happen over time in people who have stroke risk factors.

When this happens, a person is said to have acquired a condition called "vascular parkinsonism" which is sometimes called "multi-infarct parkinsonism." This diagnosis is supported by evidence of strokes in a CT or MRI of the brain.

More often than not, because it takes repeated strokes for vascular Parkinsonism to happen, this syndrome comes along with other problems in the brain which can cause other symptoms including vascular dementia.

Treatment of Vascular Parkinsonism

The most commonly used medications for vascular parkinsonism are L-Dopa and amantadine. However, many patients fail to respond to these medications. Cases which are resistant to these treatments should be followed closely by a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders.

Generally, someone who has vascular Parkinsonism does not continue to develop worsening symptoms of Parkinsonism the way a person who has Parkinson's Disease would be expected to gradually worsen over time. However, a person who has already had recurrent strokes is certainly at risk of experiencing more strokes over the coming years if no action is taken to reduce the risk of stroke. Therefore, a particularly important approach to managing vascular Parkinsonism is preventing additional strokes because they can cause a number of serious neurological symptoms to occur.

If you have vascular Parkinsonism, your neurologist will give you medication to manage your movement problems. In addition, you will have testing for stroke risk factors and medical treatment to reduce your risk of stroke.

There are also a number of lifestyle factors, such as eating a diet that reduces unhealthy and includes healthy fats, moderate exercise and quitting smoking if you smoke. Find out more about healthy cooking oils and learn more about how cholesterol impacts your risk of stroke.

Fortunately, vascular Parkinsonism itself is not a life threatening illness, although trouble getting around due to the tremor and muscle stiffness can create a handicap.


Bradley G Walter, Daroff B Robert, Fenichel M Gerald, Jancovic, Joseph; Neurology in clinical practice, principles of diagnosis and management. Philadelphia Elsevier, 2004.

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