Treatment for Parkinson's Disease
How you choose to treat your Parkinson's disease, and with whom, are likely to be some of the most important care decisions you will make.
Although there is no cure for Parkinson's at this time, Parkinson's medication, surgical options, and complementary therapies used to treat PD symptoms are continually improving. Your physician and other healthcare professionals can help you determine the best treatment plan for your symptoms.
Managing your symptoms with medication
Several classes of medications are available to treat Parkinson's symptoms. Carbidopa/Levodopa remains the most effective symptomatic therapy and may be used in combination with other classes of medications including Dopamine Agonists, COMT Inhibitors, MAO Inhibitors, and Anticholinergic agents. Treatment is highly individualized and is based on a number of factors including current symptoms, age, side effect profile, and a person's activity in daily living.
Or read APDA's published supplements on Parkinson's medication:
- Current Medications Approved for the Treatment of Parkinson's Disease in the US
- Medical Management of Parkinson's Disease
- Understanding Parkinson's disease Psychosis
The surgical option: Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical therapy that has been FDA approved for over a decade. DBS involves implanting an electrode into a targeted area of the brain, usually the subthalamic nucleus (STN) or the globus pallidus internus (GPI). The implants can be done on one side or both sides of the brain as needed. The electrodes are stimulated through a connection to a pacemaker like device located under the skin in the chest.
Treating Parkinson's with complementary & alternative medicine (CAM)
Some find that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) offers relief that other treatment options can't provide—things like:
- Nutritional diet: a healthy diet can increase energy, maximize the potential of medications, and promote overall well-being.
- Exercise: a proper exercise program can include cardiorespiratory exercise (fitness training), resistance exercises (strength training), flexibility exercises (stretching) and gait and balance training. Read more about exercise and Parkinson's in APDA's Be Active guide.
- Yoga: according to the National Institutes of Health, which evaluates the use of complementary and alternative medicine every five years as part of its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), yoga is among the leading alternative therapies in the United States. Tai chi and relaxation therapy are other related treatments.
- Massage: patients often report that massage is a great way to manage their pain and/or stress. Receiving a massage is also a great way to provide stimuli to the legs, which is helpful in treating patients afflicted by Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).
- Natural medicines
Quite often, patients turn to complementary and alternative treatment in combination with other treatment options. Others turn to CAM to help them address some of the secondary symptoms of PD, such as constipation or fatigue. Some people pursue CAM in an effort to minimize the amount of medication they take and delay the long-term side effects like dyskinesia (involuntary movements) associated with some conventional medications.
Many individuals benefit from complementary and alternative therapies.
Assembling your care team
Assembling a team that will provide you with physical and emotional support and adapt to your needs over time is one of the best ways to remain healthy. Parkinson's disease is complex and requires an interdisciplinary approach to care. The person with Parkinson's and their caregivers are central to this care—it should be highly individualized and will change over time. The care team may include, but is not limited to:
- Rehabilitation specialists including a physical, occupational, and speech & language pathologist
- Movement disorder specialist
- Primary care provider
- Social worker
The doctor you choose to treat your Parkinson's disease should be someone with whom you can develop a good partnership.
APDA helps thousands of people each year who live with the burden of Parkinson's Disease—and we depend on the generosity of donors like you. If you'd like to lend a helping hand, join our cause and donate today.