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Secondary parkinsonism

  • Definition

    Secondary parkinsonism is similar to Parkinson's disease, but it is caused by certain medicines, a different nervous system disorder, or another illness.


    Alternative Names

    Parkinsonism - secondary


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Parkinson's disease is one of the most common nervous system (neurologic) disorders of the elderly. "Parkinsonism" refers to any condition that causes Parkinson's-type abnormal movements. These movements are caused by changes in or destruction of the nerve cells (neurons) that produce the chemical dopamine in a certain area of the brain.

    Secondary parkinsonism may be caused by disorders such as:

    • Encephalitis
    • Meningitis
    • Stroke

    Other disorders can also damage the dopamine neurons and produce this condition, including:

    • Corticobasal degeneration
    • Diffuse Lewy body disease
    • Multiple system atrophy
    • Progressive supranuclear palsy

    Another common cause of secondary parkinsonism is medication, such as:

    • Antipsychotics (haloperidol)
    • Metoclopramide
    • Phenothiazine medications

    If they damage the area of the brain that contains the dopamine neurons, the following may cause secondary parkinsonism:

    • Brain damage caused by anesthesia drugs (such as during surgery)
    • Carbon monoxide poisoning
    • Exposure to toxins
    • Overdoses of narcotics

    There have been cases of secondary parkinsonism among intravenous drug users who injected a substance called MPTP, which can be produced when making a form of heroin. These cases are rare and have mostly affected long-term drug users.

    Secondary parkinsonism caused by antipsychotics or other medications is usually reversible if identified soon enough. However, it may not be reversible if it is caused by:

    • Drug-related brain damage
    • Infections
    • Toxins