Treatments for Parkinson's DiseaseWhile no cure is currently available for Parkinson's disease, treatments are available to help control the symptoms. For most early-stage patients, when symptoms are usually mild, treatments may be unnecessary. Once symptoms have progressed to the point of requiring medical intervention, physicians have a variety of available medications, which are customized to each individual patient for his/her symptoms. Physicians may reserve certain medications for particular stages of the disease in order to maximize their effectiveness. Quite often, a patient's treatment may include a combination of drugs. These treatments have helped many patients maintain their ability to function.
Medications for Parkinson's DiseaseAdministration of the drug levodopa has been the standard treatment for Parkinson's disease. Once it reaches the brain, levodopa is converted to dopamine, which replaces the same substance not present in sufficient amounts in Parkinson's patients. However, treatment with levodopa does not prevent the progressive changes of the brain typical of Parkinson's disease. The drug may also produce side effects in some people, due to its change to dopamine before reaching the brain. The simultaneous administration with levodopa of substances inhibiting this change allows a higher concentration of levodopa to reach the brain and considerably decreases the side effects. Some new drugs have recently been approved offering a wider choice of medications for the patient, while others are under investigation in this country and overseas in an effort to obtain better therapeutic results with fewer side effects.
Surgical Treatments for Parkinson's DiseaseAll major surgical procedures performed to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease are done stereotactically. This means that the target cells in the brain, which have been selected for either destruction or stimulation, are reached with the aid of a computerized guidance system through a small hole in the skull. A needle is guided to the appropriately chosen target and the cells in the targeted nucleus (group of cells) are then either destroyed or stimulated electrically.
Deep Brain StimulationDeep Brain Stimulation (DBS) targets the subthalamic nucleus, which is located below the thalamus. The procedure involves implanting a thin electrode into the brain. The electrode is connected via a wire running beneath the skin to a stimulator and battery pack in the patient's chest (similar to a cardiac pacemaker). Small electrical pulses from the device stimulate the brain and block brain signals that cause Parkinson's symptoms. With DBS, the targeted region is inactivated not destroyed. This procedure was FDA approved in January 2002.
ThalamotomyThis procedure destroys a small group of cells in the thalamus, a major area that receives information from the basal ganglia. This procedure is mainly effective in abolishing tremor on the opposite side of the body to the surgery.