Philadelphia Treatment Guide
What It Is
Named after Doctor James Parkinson who first described the disease in 1817, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic, progressive neurological disorder in which dopamine-producing brain cells in the brain deteriorate and die. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that controls motor functioning and allows for smooth, coordinated movement. When 80 percent or more of a person’s dopamine cells have died, PD symptoms begin to appear. It is typically seen in people over the age of 60, and only 15 percent of those diagnosed are under 50. The disease affects men and women relatively equally.
Tremor, rigidity or stiffness of limbs and trunk, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), postural instability (impaired balance and coordination,) stiff facial expressions, depression and other mood disorders, muffled speech, shuffling walk, dementia, constipation, speech and swallowing problems
There currently is no cure for PD or a way to slow its progression. Instead, therapy is directed at treating the symptoms in order to give the patient the best quality of life.
Exercise can reduce sleeping difficulties, improve emotional well-being, and help improve balance. Speech, occupational, and psychological therapy may help with disease-induced changes.
Levodopa (L-dopa): Levodopa is converted by enzymes in the brain to dopamine, and is currently the most effective treatment available to reduce the symptoms of slowness, stiffness, and tremor. It’s usually given with an enzyme inhibitor called carbidopa (or benserazide) in order to keep it intact until it reaches the brain.
Amantadine, anticholinergic medications, and selegiline. These medications are often given in conjuction with levodopa. They do not cause the formation of dopamine, but help to improve movement for people with PD.
Deep Brain Stimulation
This surgery is usually only performed on patients with severe Parkinson’s. In Deep Brain Stimulation, electrodes are implanted into the brain to target motor circuits that aren’t functioning. The surgery can reduce disease fluctuations, as well as dyskinesia.
Living With Parkinson's Disease
You don’t have to deal with Parkinson’s alone. Philadelphia’s Top Doctors and Hospitals are here to help.