Parkinson’s Disease – Treatment Options

There is no absolute cure for Parkinson’s disease (PD) in existing medical sciences, however, certain medications or alternative treatments can pause the disease’s progression or reduce symptoms up to some extent. As different patients experience different symptoms and severity levels, there is no standard treatment that can be cited beneficial for everybody.  Three treatment approaches for PD management include medication, surgery and non-clinical methods such as Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Yoga.

Medications

There are a number of medications available for easing both motor and non-motor symptoms of PD. While medicines for motor symptoms target minimizing tremors and slowness of the movement, drugs for non-motor symptoms target the associated symptoms such as sleep disorder, low blood pressure, and anxiety. To improve patient’s quality of life, these medications focus on increasing or substituting for dopamine in the brain.

As each person’s symptoms are different, same medicine cannot be prescribed for each PD patient. Significant research is going on to discover improved medications for motor symptoms and expanded options for non-motor symptoms.  Some PD drugs, when combined with certain foods can have an adverse effect on patient’s well-being. Likewise, certain vitamin supplements and over-the-counter pills should be avoided with PD medications. Foot swelling and hallucinations are most common medication side effects. Commonly prescribed Parkinson’s medications include Carbidopa-Levodopa, Dopamine Agonists, COMT Inhibitors, MAO-B Inhibitors and Amantadine.

Surgery

Surgery is mainly used to treat people whose PD symptoms cannot be controlled by medication and alternative methods such as Physical Therapy. The surgical option can help patients to control movement symptoms, but cannot completely cure the condition. In certain cases, treated patient will have to take medication to manage the condition post-surgery. Due to various on-going researches, the surgical treatment options for PD patients are expanding.

Currently, the most used surgical treatment for people with PD is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). In DBS method, electrodes are inserted into a targeted area of the patient’s brain to relieve him from motor PD symptoms. Hence, the method is most effective for individuals who experience tremors, speech changes, and medication-induced Dyskinesias. Various studies have pointed out that the benefits of this surgery last for at least five years. However, DBS does not cure and slow PD progression. Like any other brain surgery, it involves a minor risk of stroke, infection, brain bleeding or seizures.

Other less popular surgical methods for PD include Thalamotomy, Pallidotomy, and Subthalamotomy. These options are recommended for PD patients who have exhausted medical treatment or those who suffer from deep motor fluctuations.

Non-clinical methods

Some of the well-researched, non-clinical treatments to manage the disease include Balanced Diet, Physical Therapy, Yoga, Vocal Cord Workout, Music Therapy and Guided Imagery. A balanced diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids promotes overall health improvement for the patient. Increasing Fiber intake and drinking the adequate amount of fluids prevent constipation.

Exercises with a focus on resistance help patients relieve Bradykinesia (slowness of movement), Dyskinesia (involuntary movements of muscles) and weakness. While Stationary Cycling exercise results in reduced tremors, vocal cord workouts help the patient improve current speech competency. Yoga is a popular alternative medicine for Parkinson’s that improve the sense of well-being and hence reduce depression and anxiety.