Parkinson's Disease Treatment
Parkinson's Disease treatment aims to reduce the symptoms of this progressive disease and improve each patient's quality of life. There is no cure for Parkinson's, all the treatments simply aim to lessen symptoms of the disease.
When a diagnosis is first made, the initial treatment is generally medical, focusing on prescription of medications which are known to reduce symptoms in most patients.
Of all the drug options for treatment of Parkinson's Disease, levodopa (or L-dopa) is the most commonly used and the most effective. Levodopa is a compound which is a naturally-occurring precursor to dopamine which is lacking in parts of the brain in Parkinsons disease. The idea is that brain cells can pick up the levodopa and make dopamine and at least partially replace the lack of the neurotransmitter in the brain. While this does often improve symptoms, it is not a perfect treatment. Its benefits are often modest. Also, the drug must be given frequently and its effect may deteriorate over time. Another drug, carbidopa is often given along with levodopa to help prolong its effect. As Parkinson's disease symptoms progress, the use of levodopa, and/or carbidopa, will often change dramatically with frequent adjustments in doses, timing of dosing and going on and off the medication.
There are several other medications which may also be used in Parkinson's disease treatment. Dopamine agonists are drugs that act like dopamine to stimulate cells in the brain. MAO B inhibitors and COMT inhibitors may be used to help increase the availability of dopamine and levodopa. Anticholinergic medications and NMDA blocking drugs may also be used in some patients. All these alternative medications may be used alone or in addition to levodopa therapy to help maximize symptom control. They may be frequently swapped or adjusted as the patient learns what works best in their own particular case.
In addition to medications, initial medical treatment of Parkinson's Disease may often include physical therapy to help maintain mobility, improve general health and to maintain flexibility and muscle strength. While these treatments do not stop the progression of the disease, they may help patients to maintain function for longer and to improve their quality of life and ability to care for themselves.
In patients with more advanced disease, when medications alone are no longer controlling symptoms, surgical options may be considered as part of Parkinson's disease treatment. The most common surgical option offered to patients is called a deep brain stimulator
which uses an implanted electrode to stimulate parts of the brain. The goal is to restore some balance to the activity in the parts of the brain most affected in Parkinson's disease and therefore reduce symptoms. It is particularly good at controlling tremor. However, the effects of surgical procedures such as this are quite variable, and, like other treatments, are not a cure for the disease.
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This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.