What is Parkinson’s Disease? Parkinson’s Disease is a neurologic disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control movement. Symptoms worsens over time and can affect other brain functions such as learning and memory. It is caused by decreased levels of a chemical called dopamine in the brain. It most commonly presents in people 60 years or older and it affects men more often than women. Currently, there is no cure for the disease.
Features of Parkinson’s Disease
- Tremor Tremors are most noticeable while at rest and tend to be absent with purposeful movement such as writing or reaching for an object. The tremor is commonly on one side of the body, however, as the disease progresses it may be noticed on both sides.
- Slowness Patients with this disease tend to move slowly and may also have shorter steps or what is called a shuffling gait when walking.
- Rigidity Muscle stiffness commonly starts on the same side of the body as the tremor and like the tremor it can affect both sides of the body.
- Postural instability or impaired balance can cause the patient to fall. This problem is typically seen later in the disease process. It can lead to dependence on a cane, walker, or wheelchair.
The diagnosis is based upon the patient’s signs and symptoms gathered by the physician during the medical history and physical exam. There are no blood tests or imaging studies that can confirm the diagnosis.
At this time there is no treatment that can slow the progression of the disease. However, there are multiple medications for treating the symptoms:
- Sinemet (levodopa/carbidopa) is the most effective treatment for the symptoms. Sinemet replaces dopamine in the brain. It is most effective in treating the slowness in movements, tremor, and rigidity.
- Eldepryl (selegiline) and Azilect (rasagiline) are drugs that block deactivation of dopamine. This allows dopamine to remain in the brain longer before being broken down. These drugs can provide a modest reduction in symptoms. They can be used alone or in addition to Sinemet.
- Mirapex (pramipexole), Requip (ropinirole), and Neupro (rotigotine) are medications that work like dopamine.
- Comtan (entacapon) is a medications that prolong the effects of levodopa. It is primarily used in patients who have a “wearing off” of their medication effect at the end of their dose of levodopa. This medication has no effect when taken alone.
Exercise can improve the patient’s quality of life, improve balance, flexibility, and strength. These exercises can help prevent some of the complications caused by the rigidity such as shoulder, hip, or back pain. Physical therapists can help a patient develop an exercise program that is beneficial to each particular patient. The physical therapist can also help the patient with balancing exercises in order to help improve stability.
Are you or a loved one showing symptoms of Parkinson's Disease? Schedule an appointment with an OrthoNeuro Neurologist today!
National Parkinson’s Foundation of Ohio http://www.centralohioparkinson.org/
"Parkinson’s disease: Hope through research.” National institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Hope-Through-Research/Parkinsons-Disease-Hoe-Through-Research