While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease as yet, there are several treatment options that one can consider depending on the life cycle stage of the disease. Before commencing any treatment, it is best advised to consult a specialist of Parkinson’s disease and undertake the treatment under his or her guidance only.
The starting point is the diagnosis of the disease. There are no specific tests to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. The examination should be done by a neurologist and usually comprise of a review of your signs and symptoms followed by some other tests.
Tests such as MRI, PET Scans, Ultrasounds of the brain may be prescribed by the doctor to rule out other disorders. In addition to tests, your doctor may prescribe you carbidopa-levodopa, a Parkinson’s disease medication. This medication shows some improvement in your condition and will often confirm the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Sometimes it takes time to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Doctors may recommend regular follow-up appointments with neurologists trained in movement disorders to evaluate your condition and symptoms over time and diagnose Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease impacts different people differently. The treatment, therefore, is also highly dependent on the type of Parkinson’s that one has. Your specialist will typically recommend a treatment solution that best fits your type of Parkinson’s disease after a proper diagnosis.
Some of the usual treatments available today to treat Parkinson’s disease are :
- Medicinal or Drug-based Treatments
- Surgical Treatments
Medicinal or Drug-based Treatments
Parkinson’s disease happens when dopamine (a chemical messenger in your brain) levels fall. Drugs help to increase the levels of dopamine in your brain and stimulate the parts of your brain where dopamine works.
There are many different drugs prescribed for Parkinson’s and your medication will be based on what suits you as an individual.
Drugs may help you manage movement-related problems such as walking or tremor by increasing the levels of dopamine in your brain. What is to be understood is that as Parkinson’s disease progresses, you may require increasing levels of drugs to retain the same efficacy.
Some of the well-known drugs that are usually prescribed are:
This is the most effective drug for Parkinson’s disease and is a natural chemical that passes into your brain and is converted into dopamine.
Side effects may include nausea or lightheadedness. One may also experience involuntary movements after taking higher levels of levodopa.
This drug works a bit differently. While drugs like Levodopa change into dopamine, dopamine agonists do not create dopamine, but mimic the dopamine effects in the brain.
They are not as effective as levodopa. However, they last longer and are used to smoothen the off-on effect of regular usage of levodopa.
Side effects of dopamine agonists include hallucinations, sleepiness and compulsive behaviors such as hypersexuality, gambling, and eating. Remember to record all such behaviors in the diary to share with the doctor.
These are essentially inhibitors that help prevent the breakdown of dopamine by inhibiting the brain enzyme that metabolizes dopamine. Side effects include nausea and insomnia.
Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Inhibitors prolong the effect of levodopa therapy by blocking the brain enzyme that breaks down dopamine. Side effects include increased risk of dyskinesia’s or diarrhea.
These medications were used for many years to help control the tremor associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Side effects include impaired memory, hallucinations, constipation, dry mouth and impaired urination.
This drug provides short term relief in early stage Parkinson’s disease. Side effects include mottling of the skin, swelling in the ankles or hallucinations.
Surgical Treatments are another way to treat Parkinson’s disease and may be recommended by your doctor depending on the stage of Parkinson one is at.
One of the most effective surgical treatments is:
Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)
DBS uses a small, pacemaker-like device, placed under the skin of the chest, to send electrical signals through very thin wires to an area in the brain that controls movement. These signals block some of the brain messages that cause the movement symptoms of Parkinson’s. DBS is delivered 24 hours a day and requires no daily cleaning or refilling and is extremely useful for addressing the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Therapy is another way in which Parkinson patients are treated. Therapists help Parkinson’s patients cope with the disease and live a fuller healthier life. Some of the well know therapies are:
Occupational therapist works with you to better understand your daily life and suggest ways of helping you make a difficult task easier. They may suggest tools that you could use, aspects of rearranging of furniture in your home and other forms of community support that would help you to live a full life.
Since much of Parkinson’s disease is to do with movement, a physiotherapist could help you to work out coping strategies that can impact your movement related problems more effectively especially in the early stages of Parkinson’s.
A communication therapist works on improving your speech and language in case you are suffering from speech-related issues as a result of Parkinson. They help develop specific approaches tailor-made for you to help you with your volume, articulation, body language and facial expressions.