Managing Parkinson’s: Medication, complementary therapies, advanced treatment

By Karen Hales, Neurology Solutions Contributing Writer

A neurological disorder affecting an estimated 1 million Americans, Parkinson’s disease treatment and care costs the United States an estimated $25 billion per year. Researchers are working around the clock to find better treatments as well as mechanisms to slow or reverse progression of the disease with hopes for an eventual cure. Because of the multi-system nature of the condition, effectively managing Parkinson’s disease requires a multi-layered approach.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are due to a brain disorder in which the neurotransmitter dopamine is depleted. Dopamine plays an essential role in movement by transmitting signals from the brain to other parts of the body. It also plays an important role in regulating one’s mood, as it is responsible for producing feelings of pleasure. Parkinson’s disease management therefore addresses symptoms related to movement, emotion, cognition and a variety of other functions.

Parkinson’s medications to address the primary cause of motor symptoms include dopamine-replacement therapy and dopamine inhibitors, while other drugs may be prescribed to manage medication side effects such as hallucinations and delusions and address symptoms impacting mood, such as depression and anxiety. A number of complementary treatments for Parkinson’s also are used to slow disease progression, and advanced therapies including deep brain stimulation surgery can significantly improve functioning for many.

Parkinson’s Disease Treatment and Care

Medications such as dopamine replacement therapy and dopamine-inhibitors, which mimic the effect of dopamine on the brain, are among the main medication treatments for primary symptoms of PD.

While PD medications relieve motor symptoms by increasing dopamine in the brain, elevated dopamine levels can trigger hallucinations and delusions. Evaluating patients to balance their dopamine levels while alleviating hallucinations/delusions can be a complicated process. Antipsychotic medications, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are commonly prescribed for secondary symptoms of PD.

Several recent research developments have brought new hope for treating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and developing therapies to potentially slow disease process.

Complementary / Non-medication Treatments for PD

In addition to medication therapies, your neurologist will also prescribe several complementary therapies to optimize your treatment. These non-medication treatments for Parkinson’s can include exercise, physical therapy, yoga and/or mediation, dietary recommendations and supplements. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is yet another treatment that has been shown to benefit certain symptoms associated with PD and for its general anti-aging attributes.

Physical Therapy, Exercise and Nutrition for PD

Maintaining an exercise regimen for Parkinson’s, whether walking, yoga, dance or an exercise class specifically for people with PD, and proper nutrition are two of the most important factors for maintaining quality of life with PD. Physical therapy also can assist people with Parkinson’s in regaining skills, balance and motor function and provide tools for managing symptoms of the disease. Neurology Solutions’ Austin Renewal Therapy is a full-service physical therapy clinic offering specialized therapies to treat movement disorders as well as sports medicine.

Parkinson’s patients may also consider engaging in activities that help reduce stress and anxiety, such as music therapy, reflexology, meditation and art therapy.

Hormone Replacement Therapy for Parkinson’s

Research has shown hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may benefit certain symptoms associated with PD. Neurology Solutions has trialed a number of PD patients with hormone therapy to bring the patients’ hormone levels closer to the hormone profile of their youth and positively impact their mobility, motor fluctuations, cognition and mood.

Optimizing Supplements for Parkinson’s

Your doctor also may prescribe a number of supplements, including a multi-vitamin, proteins and essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin C and Magnesium. If you are thinking of taking any supplements or herbs, inform your physician as some of them can interfere with conventional drug treatments.

Advanced Treatments for Parkinson’s disease

Patients with a movement disorder often consider deep brain stimulation implant surgery to stabilize their symptoms, reduce the need for medications and provide more consistent relief of symptoms in medication off-periods.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last spring approved the use of the Medtronic Parkinson’s deep-brain stimulation device to treat complications from Parkinson’s disease much earlier than before. The FDA decision makes DBS advisable for patients who have had the condition for at least 4 years but only recently experienced motor symptoms. Specialists in PD recommend starting conversations about treatments such as DBS with your doctor before symptoms of the disease have become severe and have a significant impact on quality of life.

Neurology Solutions sponsors a monthly Deep Brain Stimulation Learning & Support Group to provide a chance to meet other people who have undergone DBS surgery and share issues, concerns and advice about life with DBS.

Movement specialists trained in managing Parkinson’s disease

Individuals diagnosed with PD and other parkinsonism syndromes should seek the advice of doctors who specialize in treating these complex movement disorders, even when the illness is only suspected. Choices about medications made early in the course of Parkinson’s disease can have a lasting impact on the course of the illness.

Movement disorder specialists have extensive experience with Parkinson’s disease treatment and care, including managing medication side effects and disease progression to maintain patients’ quality of life.  Individuals with PD should seek a medication review at least annually to ensure they are taking advantage of the latest most effective treatments for managing symptoms.

STAY CONNECTED

Neurology Solutions is accepting new patients seeking a specialist in managing Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor and age-related movement disorders. If you are seeking another opinion on diagnosing your condition or managing symptoms of a movement disorder, please contact Neurology Solutions or call 512-865-6310 to schedule an appointment.

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