Understanding Parkinson's

Treatment

Managing Parkinson's disease

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease at this time, but working closely with a skilled healthcare team will offer different approaches to control the symptoms and help patients lead an active, engaged, meaningful life. Treatment advances are increasingly effective in alleviating symptoms and hold the promise of slowing the progression of the disease. There is great optimism for future Parkinson’s disease prevention, better treatment, and hopefully someday a cure.

Suggestions for managing your Parkinson’s treatment:

  • Establish a healthcare team that works with you.
  • Keep a healthcare journal of questions, symptoms or medication side-effects that come up in between appointments to share at your next visit.
  • Stay current on medication refills.
  • Always ask for a visit summary print-out after medical appointments.
  • If you don't understand what a medication does or how to properly administer your medication, ask questions or have an advocate clarify with your physician.
  • Use a phone alarm or pill box to assist with medication management and timing.

Healthcare Team

There is no standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Treatment for each person with Parkinson’s is based on his or her symptoms and is an area of your care that your medical team will help you establish and navigate.

Treatments include medication and surgical therapy. Other treatments include lifestyle modifications, like getting more rest and exercise.

There are many medications available to treat Parkinson’s symptoms, although none that reverse the effects of the disease. It is common for people with PD to take a variety of these medications — all at different doses and at different times of day — to manage symptoms.

While keeping track of medications can be a challenging task, understanding your medications and sticking to a schedule will provide the greatest benefit from the drugs and avoid unpleasant “off” periods due to missed doses.

Medication

Parkinson’s drugs can improve your symptoms but do not currently stop disease progression. Your medical team will work closely with you to ensure you are prescribed what’s right for you. It is important to keep in mind that this can be a process and take time to figure out what medications in what doses work best with your body. Maintaining open, clear communication with your medical team is an integral part of finding the most appropriate treatment plan.

Medications are grouped by type (class). These are levodopa, dopamine agonists, MAO-B Inhibitors, COMT inhibitors, amantadine and anticholinergics. Co-careldopa (Sinemet) is a common levodopa medication, for example. To learn more about your medications, ask your pharmacist or physician for information. 

Some people also find complementary therapies to be a helpful part of their treatment plan. PRO has volunteer-led alternative treatment support groups available to those that may be interested in learning about some of these alternative options. It is always recommended to discuss any additions/changes to your treatment plan with your physician to ensure your safety.  

Tips To Manage Your Medication

  • Take your medications on time, every time.
  • Keep a record of all your medications.
  • Know how other medications or diet might interact.

Surgery

Although the primary treatment for Parkinson’s symptoms is medication, there are some types of surgery available too. Surgery is mainly used to treat people whose Parkinson’s symptoms are no longer adequately controlled by medicationThe main type of surgery for Parkinson’s is deep brain stimulation (DBS).

For some, surgery can help to control movement symptoms, but will not stop the condition from progressing and does not cure Parkinson’s. Most people will still need to take medication. Not everyone will be a good candidate for surgery, and it is important to discuss with your team the potential risks and benefits to understand the likely outcomes. 

Talking with others who have been through the assessment, surgery and recovery can often be a good place to start. It is important to keep in mind that as individual symptoms and severity differ, so might the anticipated outcomes and results. Contact PRO to see if there is an upcoming education program on surgical options or to connect with a peer.

Lifestyle Changes

There are many changes a person living with Parkinson’s may choose to make in order to mitigate the various symptoms they face. Some important areas to consider could include:

Sleep: experiencing difficulty with sleep? This is common for people with Parkinson’s and an important area to address with your doctor. A sleep study could be an option to rule out other causes of sleep related conditions outside of PD. There are also many suggestions to improve sleep hygiene and combat fatigue. Ask your physician at your next appointment to see what might work best for you.

Exercise: considered one of the most important lifestyle changes to make in order to live better with Parkinson’s disease. Learn what exercise can do for Parkinson’s on the PRO exercise page  — (insert link?)

Nutrition: while there is no one diet proven to cure Parkinson’s, food is fuel for our bodies. When considering the prevention of other chronic illnesses, what we eat matters. Learn more about nutrition on the PRO nutrition page — (insert link?)

Stress Management: stress has been shown to exacerbate Parkinson’s symptoms and is a precursor to other illnesses. There are many ways to address and reduce stress in your life. Talking with a counselor, joining a support group, exercise, breathing techniques, planning ahead and asking for help are just some of the ways to manage stress in your life. Ask your doctor or the social worker at PRO for support if you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure what to do next.

Have a question?

Be sure to include your healthcare team

PRO can be a good resource for general information about treatment options and even with tools to become your own best healthcare advocate, but the source you must ultimately rely upon is your physician and healthcare team. Together, you can discuss symptoms, impact on quality of life, possible side effects and treatment goals to create a plan that works best for you!

Have a question?

be sure to include your healthcare team

PRO can be a good resource for general information about treatment options and even with tools to become your own best healthcare advocate, but the source you must ultimately rely upon is your physician and healthcare team. Together, you can discuss symptoms, impact on quality of life, possible side effects and treatment goals to create a plan that works best for you!