Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive Neurologic disorder where the specialized dopamine producing nerve cells of the brain deteriorate.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger necessary for normal movement. When the dopamine is lost, it creates an imbalance in the brain. This affects the brain’s ability to maintain normal motor control, leading to the development of abnormal movements, such as tremor, rigidity, and balance control.

What are the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?

Hand tremor is considered one of the most common disabling clinical features of Parkinson’s disease. It is commonly seen at rest or while walking, but may also interfere with writing and other activities. A sense of stiffness of the muscles, an overall slowness of movement, decreased volume of voice, drooling, impaired balance and impaired coordination are some of the first symptoms one may notice. Every patient will have some varying degree or combination of these functional disturbances.

Patients may eventually develop difficulty walking, swallowing or completing activities of daily living. At times memory difficulties may arise. This may represent a complication of the disorder or may reflect a problem with the medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Your Neurologist will be able to guide your individualized care program. Symptoms usually begin mildly and progress gradually.

What are the treatment options for Parkinson’s Disease?

At present there are many different classifications of medications that help increase the level of function in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

These drug groups are:

  • Agents that supplement brain dopamine
  • Agents that mimic brain dopamine
  • Agents that increase available dopamine
  • Agents that potentially reduce dopamine loss

Brain surgeries that reduce tremor and/or stiffness.

It will be important to carefully monitor all your medications. Sometimes certain medications or dietary changes may alter the effectiveness of your Parkinson’s medications. 

What are the treatment options for Parkinson’s Disease?

Sometimes the degree of brain imbalance has proceeded to a point where medications are no longer effective and/or their side effects are not tolerable. In these circumstances, specialized surgical options are available to achieve more balanced control of motor function.

Who will monitor my care?

Your family physician will monitor your general well-being between your visits to your Neurologist. Because of the number of medications available to treat Parkinson’s disease, it is important to have a Neurologist match your medications with the progress of your disease. Hallucinations and sleep disturbances are common but develop late in the disease and can be improved.

What can I do to help myself?

It is important for you to have regular exercise to maintain strength and flexibility. Activities such as walking, jogging, stretching, and swimming are recommended. Physical Therapy is very helpful to many patients. Support groups may help you to express your feeling and share your experiences with other patients. It is often helpful to find a support group where patients are at a similar level of function. It may help to bring a close family member with you to your doctor appointments to keep them informed regarding your condition and help with medication changes. A Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist (Physiatrist) can help to coordinate and monitor issues related to your physical activities and balance.

For more information please contact:

The National Parkinson’s Foundation

Other resources available:

American Parkinson Disease Association

Parkinson’s Action Network

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation

Youth Onset Parkinson’s Association