Doctors have an array of treatments for Parkinson’s disease (PD) that often provide dramatic relief from symptoms. Therapies fall into three categories: drug treatment, surgical procedures and supportive care therapies.
Medications to Treat Parkinson’s Disease
Three categories of treatment options for Parkinson’s that employ medications include those that increase dopamine levels; drugs that manage neurotransmitters; drugs that control related conditions such as depression.
Levodopa, or L-dopa, is the primary medication for Parkinson’s. Although it is not a cure, it has shown high rates of success in controlling tremors and other symptoms. It most effectively treats Bradykinesia (slow movement) and stiff muscles. Because levodopa may generate side effects, some of which may be severe, its use must be carefully monitored. Doctors adjust dosage as needed to achieve desired results and minimize complications. Other medications
In addition to levodopa, other medications to treat Parkinson’s include:
- Dopamine agonists, which mimic the effects of dopamine
- MAO-B inhibitors that prevent the breakdown of dopamine in the brain
- COMT inhibitors that also helps slow the breakdown of dopamine
- Anticholinergics that help reduce tremors in about half of cases
Surgical Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease
The use of surgery declined for a period after the discovery of levodopa; however, recent advances in surgical techniques now help people when drug therapies do not succeed. Among the treatment options for Parkinson’s that employ surgery are:
- Deep brain stimulation, a process in which tiny electrical impulses are directed at specific areas of the brain using an electrode implanted surgically
- Pallidotomy and Thalamotomy selectively destroy parts of the brain reducing tremors and improving gait and balance
Supportive Therapies for Parkinson’s Disease
Supportive care treatment options for Parkinson’s involve physical, occupational and speech therapies that help people manage and control symptoms. Other complementary therapies involve diet and exercise. While no specific evidence support the use of dietary supplements, some studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 may help slow the progress of PD. Exercise increases flexibility and mobility, helping move muscles through a range of motion to help reduce rigidity. Exercise may help increase the brain’s production of dopamine and beneficial neurotrophic factors while it boosts strength, improves balance,
and helps with emotional well-being. Yoga, massage, tai-chi, hypnosis and acupuncture are other complementary treatments for Parkinson’s. While none of these therapies cure or prevent PD, proper nutrition and regular exercise generally contribute to overall health.