Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects the nerve cells in the brain. The article dwells on the various treatment options, including medications and therapies for the same.
Parkinson’s disease, also known as Parkinson’s, PD, or paralysis agitans, is a progressive neurological disease caused by loss of certain nerve cells or neurons in the brain that control muscle movement. These cells produce a chemical called dopamine, which acts as a messenger or neurotransmitter for transmitting signals from one part of the brain to another in order to facilitate bodily movement.
Hence in parkinson’s disease, the dopamine levels in the brain drop considerably, affecting the normal muscular movements. This also leads to changes in the concentrations of other chemicals, like, acetylcholine in the brain, which affect the arm and leg movements as well as facial expressions. Parkinson’s is more commonly seen in people around the age of 65, however, most people start developing early symptoms of this disease before the age of 40. Research also shows that every year nearly one or two out of 100 patients get affected by this neurological disorder.
Only after conducting a neurological examination and knowing your medical history the neurologist will prescribe you the necessary drugs or therapies. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this dreadful brain disease, but there are certain medications and therapies that help control the symptoms, simply by restoring the levels of dopamine in the brain.
Given below are the commonly prescribed drugs for the patients suffering from Parkinson’s, to control its symptoms:
- Levodopa: Also known as L-dopa, is the most commonly used drug to control the symptoms of this dangerous disease. It breaks down in the body to form dopamine and is usually consumed orally along with carbidopa, a drug to keep levodopa from untimely conversion to dopamine outside the brain and also to avoid side effects, like, nausea, sleepiness, and vomiting.
- Dopamine Agonists: Though not as effective as levodopa, dopamine agonists imitate the actions of dopamine in the brain and make the nerve cells function normally. However, the medication can also trigger some side effects, like, hallucinations, sleepiness, water retention, and low blood pressure.
- MAO B Inhibitors: These drugs keep the breakdown of dopamine present naturally or formed by levodopa by suppressing the functionality of an enzyme monoamine oxidase B (MAO B), which metabolizes this chemical messenger in the brain. Though rare, these inhibitors also have some ill effects, like, confusion, headache, hallucinations, nausea, or dizziness.
- Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) Inhibitors: Likewise, these medications also prevent the dopamine breakdown in the body. They are usually given with levodopa when the dopamine replacement medications lose their effectiveness. Their side effects are involuntary movements (dyskinesias), urine discoloration, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or hallucinations.
- Anticholinergics: Anticholinergics are usually given during the early stages of Parkinson’s to control the tremors or shaking associated with it. Confusion, impaired memory, constipation, dry mouth, etc., are some of its adverse effects.
- Glutamate (NMDA) Blocking Drugs: These medications are also given during the early stages of the disease in order to control the involuntary movements (dyskinesia).
Conditions when these medications don’t prove to be useful, surgical treatment methods including, ablation, deep brain stimulation, and pallidotomy may be performed to control the symptoms. Ablation is a procedure wherein, the affected part of the brain that produces abnormal chemical or electrical impulses is destroyed or ablated. This procedure is less commonly used in comparison to deep brain stimulation in which, the affected region is deactivated by an implanted electrode, connected through a wire running underneath the skin to a stimulator and battery pack in the patient’s chest.
Next surgical procedure is pallidotomy wherein, a precise area of the brain is targeted to control the symptoms. A fine probe assesses the abnormal electrical activity and another probe provides small electric shocks. The patient is awake during the entire surgery to pinpoint the area for treatment according to the effects. The surgeon then burns the cells by heating them at 80 degrees Celsius for around 60 seconds.
Along with medications, physical therapy and massage can also help in fortifying and toning the underused muscles, and give stiff or rigid muscles a better range of motion. Speech therapy for improving speaking and swallowing, and yoga, meditation, as well as some simple activities like walking, swimming, etc. can also help build body strength and improve balance.
Eating a nutritionally balanced diet comprising fresh fruits, vegetables, foods high in fiber, and vitamins can be beneficial for a Parkinson’s patient. The disease can disturb the patient’s sense of balance and thinking ability, hence, someone should always be around the patient. With proper care and treatment, any Parkinson’s patient can lead a decent life with the usual life expectancy.