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Treatments for Parkinson's Disease
How is Parkinson's disease treated?
No treatment can stop or reverse the breakdown of nerve cells that causes Parkinson's disease. But there are many treatments that can help your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Your age, work status, family, and living situation can all affect decisions about when to start treatment, what types of treatment to use, and when to make changes in treatment. As your medical condition changes, you may need regular changes in your treatment to balance quality-of-life issues, side effects of treatment, and treatment costs.
You'll need to see members of your health care team regularly (every 3 to 6 months, or as directed) to adjust your treatment as your condition changes.
Treatments for Parkinson's include:
Levodopa and dopamine agonists are the most common treatment for Parkinson's disease. But these drugs can cause problems if you use them for a long time or at a high dose. So doctors sometimes use other medicines to treat people in the early stages of the disease.
- Home treatment.
There are many steps you can take at home to make dealing with the symptoms of Parkinson's disease easier. For example, get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet.
Several nutritional therapies have been suggested as treatments for Parkinson's. None of these have been proved effective. But it is important to maintain general health and to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Before trying a complementary treatment, such as a special diet, talk with your doctor about the safety and potential side effects of the treatment. Talking with your doctor can help you both decide whether a treatment is safe and effective. Complementary treatments should not replace the use of medicines to treat Parkinson's if you are a candidate for treatment with these medicines.
Brain surgery, for example deep brain stimulation, may be an option. It may be used when medicine can't control symptoms of Parkinson's disease or causes severe or disabling side effects. For this treatment, a surgeon places wires in your brain. The wires carry tiny electrical signals to the parts of the brain that control movement. These little signals can help those parts of the brain work better.
- Speech therapy.
Speech therapists use breathing and speech exercises to help you overcome the soft, imprecise speech and monotone voice that develop in advanced Parkinson's disease.
- Physical therapy.
Therapists may help you improve your walking and reduce your risk of falling.
- Occupational therapy.
Therapists can help you learn new ways to do things for yourself so you can stay independent longer.
- Treatment for mental problems.
You or your family members may notice that you start to have problems with memory, problem solving, learning, and other mental functions. When these problems keep you from doing daily activities, it is called dementia. There are medicines that can help treat dementia in people with Parkinson's.
Your doctor, other health professionals, or Parkinson's support groups can help you get emotional support and education about the illness. This is important both early and throughout the course of the disease.
Depression is common in people with Parkinson's disease. Recognizing and dealing with it is important. There are medicines that can help the symptoms of depression in people with Parkinson's.
Depression that does not respond to drugs may improve with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT can also improve movement for a short period of time, though the reason for this isn't understood.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.