Diagnosis and treatment options for Parkinson’s disease

Health A-Z

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease that affects the person’s ability to move, speak, and write. It affects the nervous system and is typically diagnosed among people over the age of 60. Doctors have been unable to define a cure for this condition as of yet. Hence, there is no standard form of treatment available for it. However, with effective diagnosis and preventive measures, the quality of life of a person with Parkinson’s can be considerably improved.

There is no specific blood test, scan, EEG, or any other type of objective test that can be used to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Thus, to confirm a diagnosis of this condition, a doctor will go through the patient’s medical history and perform a neurological exam. In this way, the doctor will look for cardinal symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as resting tremors and balance problems. The patient’s responsiveness to Parkinson’s medications can also be used to confirm a diagnosis.

The treatment options available for this disease aims at making a person’s life more comfortable and improving his or her quality of life. It is customized on the basis of the symptoms being expressed. The treatment for Parkinson’s is generally in the form of medication, lifestyle changes, and surgery.

Medications: Medication is usually prescribed as a substitute for dopamine—a chemical that is responsible for transmitting signals between the nerve cells of the brain. People with Parkinson’s disease have very low levels of dopamine. Dopamine itself cannot be administered directly as it could cause further complications. Medications can make movements easier and help control tremors. However, their effect can become inconsistent as the disease progresses. Hence, the dosage and type of medication being prescribed may need to be changed. In some cases, the medication may not be administered in the form of pills and may instead be administered through a feeding tube. This allows the medicine to reach the small intestine directly.

Surgery: In some cases, deep brain stimulation surgery may be advised. This surgery is usually advised in cases where the patient suffers from an advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease and responds unstably to medication. This involves planting electrodes in a particular part of the brain. A generator connected to these electrodes is implanted in the chest. Electrical impulses sent from this generator to the electrodes can help control Parkinson’s symptoms. It is essential to note that while the surgery does relieve symptoms, it does not keep the disease from progressing.

Lifestyle changes: Making a few changes to the patient’s diet and lifestyle can provide relief from symptoms and make living with Parkinson’s disease easier. For example, constipation is commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease. Eating food that is rich in fiber and drinking more water can make the digestion process smoother and help prevent constipation. Adding more omega-3 fatty acids to the diet can also be beneficial.

Similarly, regular exercise can be very helpful. This strengthens the muscles and helps maintain balance. It also helps keep mental complications such as anxiety and depression at bay. Low-intensity exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming, and water aerobics are ideal for people with Parkinson’s.

To avoid falls and injuries, patients are advised to look straight ahead instead of looking down at their feet. Patients are also advised not to carry things while they walk as it could affect their balance.

Working with an occupational therapist is beneficial. These therapists can help people with Parkinson’s learn new techniques of dressing, bathing, eating, etc. This makes them more independent and makes their life more comfortable.