Meet & Ask the Expert: Duff Rardin, MD

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and Dr. Duff Rardin, board-certified neurologist specializing in movement disorders, sheds light on Parkinson’s disease. With expertise in confirming diagnoses and tailoring treatments, Dr. Rardin advocates for early intervention to improve patients’ quality of life.

What are the common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and when should someone seek medical attention?

Early on Parkinson’s disease is recognized by typical motor findings of rest tremors, slow and stiff movements and balance difficulty.  Patients are often present for evaluation if they develop a middle age tremor and their families become concerned when they notice changes in posture and walking.

What screening options are available for detecting Parkinson’s disease, and how effective are they in early detection?

The most important first screening test is a careful neurological exam.  Although there is not a specific test for Parkinson’s disease, in patients with confusing tremors, sometimes a radionuclide brain study called a DAT scan is ordered.  A limitation of the test is that early on there are false negatives so you can’t always use it as a rule out test.

Could you explain the role of a neurologist in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease?

The neurologist can help confirm the diagnosis and help direct appropriate medication therapy.  We are also helpful in teasing out what other symptoms might also be related to the diagnosis like dizziness, sleep problems, and speech or swallowing difficulty. Early involvement might help limit the exposure to medication side effects and identify earlier which patients might ultimately be a surgical candidate for a device like the deep brain stimulator.

Are there any known risk factors or genetic predispositions for developing Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is not a classic genetic disorder, but we sometimes do inherit genes which increase our risk for Parkinson’s disease. Genetic testing is not a routine part of the evaluation at this time. Patients exposed to herbicides, other environmental toxins (like agent orange), and those with a history of head trauma are at increased risk for Parkinson’s disease

What are some common misconceptions about Parkinson’s disease, and how do you address them with patients and their families?

Previously a concern was some of the medications for Parkinson’s disease were toxic to the brain and should be withheld as long as possible.  I believe the medications don’t hasten the disease and are more effective and are better tolerated when the disease is less severe.  I also feel I have the best chance to improve quality of life when treating early.

Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to pursue a career in neurology?

Like many of my colleagues, I was inspired by a great teacher. He taught me to enjoy the long conversations over years of care with my patients.  Parkinson’s disease usually progresses slowly over years, sometimes decades.

I am also excited to share that my son, Ben, is also training to be a neurologist.

On a personal note, what’s the most memorable destination you’ve traveled to, and do you have a travel destination on your bucket list?

Despite a touch of food poisoning, my most memorable trip was to the Galapagos Islands.  As a boy who kept box turtles for pets, how could I not want to see the giant tortoises?  It was the trip of a lifetime!

Learn more about Parkinson’s Disease and our Neurology services, find a provider near you.

Dr. Duff Rardin

Duff Rardin, MD​

Board-Certified Neurologist
Pardee Neurology Associates

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