Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that often presents as problems with movement. Although there is no cure for the disease, there are several treatments available to minimize symptoms and help Parkinson's patients lead fulfilling lives.
Dopaminergic medications, or dopamine agonists, are used to increase the neurotransmitter, dopamine. The cause of Parkinson's is the brain's underproduction of dopamine, which causes the characteristic symptoms, such as tremors and other problems with movement. Although dopaminergic medications do not change the progression of the disease, they supply the body with the precursors to make dopamine, thereby reducing some of the symptoms of Parkinson's.
Dopaminergic medications do carry the risk of side effects, and patients may find their symptoms associated with Parkinson's can return abruptly when the medication wears off. Using time-released versions of the medication can reduce side effects and prevent the abrupt return of symptoms by providing the brain with a slow, steady release of medication.
Deep Brain Stimulation
Since Parkinson's is a progressive condition, there may come a time when medications are no longer effective or do not give patients adequate relief of symptoms. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an example of treatments that might be effective for some patients, especially when combined with medications.
A surgical procedure is used to insert electrodes into the brain to alleviate specific symptoms associated with Parkinson's, such as muscle rigidity or the inability to initiate voluntary movements. The electrodes are usually tested during the operation to ensure they are in the right spot of the brain. Leads from the electrodes connect to a pacemaker-like device that is placed in the chest or abdomen.
Mental Health Medications
Symptoms associated with mental illness occur in Parkinson's disease. For example, depression and anxiety are common. Additionally, many people with Parkinson's experience episodes of psychosis with delusions and/or hallucinations. These symptoms may or may not occur with other symptoms consistent with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
It is important for people with Parkinson's to seek care from a psychiatrist or neuropsychiatrist in addition to their current management by a neurologist. Some medications used for mental health conditions may also be used to reduce affective disorders or psychosis in these patients. Since there may be unique challenges in finding medications that are appropriate for Parkinson's patients, it is best to consult with a neuropsychiatrist who has more experience dealing with psychiatric symptoms in those with concurrent neurological conditions.
There are several treatments to help Parkinson's patients deal with an array of physical and psychiatric symptoms. Fortunately, a combination of brain condition treatments can help patients continue to lead productive lives.