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The Basics of Parkinson’s Disease: Treatment Options

A few weeks ago, we wrote a blog about the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Today we want to expand on this topic and offer you, as a caregiver, some information on the common treatments of this disease.

Although Parkinson’s cannot be cured, there are treatments, such as medications and therapy that can help curb the effects of this disease.

Here are three common examples of Parkinson’s treatment to keep in mind:

Medication – Due to the fact that most Parkinson’s symptoms are caused by the lack of dopamine in the brain, many of the prescribed medications are used to help either replenish or recreate the action of dopamine. These types of drugs are known as dopaminergic, and are meant to reduce muscle rigidity and lessen the tremor symptoms. Carbidopa-levodopa is regarded as the most effective Parkinson’s medication, and is a natural chemical that passes into the brain and is then converted into dopamine.

Although some of these medications can prove to be effective in treating patients battling Parkinson’s Disease, they can also cause severe side effects, such as delirium, nausea and confusion, to name a few. If your loved one experiences any of these side effects, consult his or her doctor immediately.

Surgery – For some people, surgery may be the best option for easing symptoms of Parkinson’s. One of the most common forms of Parkinson’s surgery is deep brain stimulation (DBS). In this type of operation, surgeons will implant electrodes into specific parts of the brain. The electrodes are then connected to a generator that’s implanted in the patient’s chest near his or her collarbone, and sends electrical pulses to the brain.

DBS can help reduce or even halt involuntary movements, improve the slowing of movement, and reduce tremors and rigidity.

In most cases, this type of surgery is commonly offered to people with advanced Parkinson’s.

Lifestyle – Aside from the medical options that can be used to ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, there are other options that you and your loved one can explore to help subdue the effects.

Let’s take a look at some of the lifestyle changes your loved one can consider in an effort to make living with Parkinson’s more manageable.

  • Exercise – Through exercise, a Parkinson’s patient can work to increase his or her balance, flexibility and muscle strength. But exercise is not limited to only physical benefits; activity can also benefit your loved one mentally as well, as it improves his or her wellbeing and reduces anxiety and depression.
    A physical therapist is a useful resource to help the patient learn an exercise program that can be performed at home. These exercises may include stretching, water aerobics, swimming and walking
  • Diet – A balanced diet that is filled with a variety of whole grains, vegetables and fruits is encouraged. Additionally, incorporating an adequate amount of fluids and eating fibrous foods can help prevent some of the side effects of Parkinson’s, such as constipation.
  • Balance – As the disease progresses, your loved one might be more prone to falling due to even the slightest bump or misstep. However, the following ideas might help keep him or her on balance:
    • Avoid walking backwards
    • Remind your loved one to keep his or her center of gravity while reaching or leaning
    • Rather than pivoting the feet, suggest that he or she makes a U-turn instead
    • Avoid carrying objects while walking

These are the three most common treatments of Parkinson’s disease.  As a caregiver, it’s important to check with your loved one’s primary care physician to explore the best options for your particular situation.

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/basics/treatment/con-20028488

http://www.parkinson.org/Parkinson-s-Disease/Treatment/Surgical-Treatment-Options

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