Disease Management – How is Parkinson’s Disease Treated?

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Parkinson’s disease (also known as Parkinson disease or PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that often impairs the sufferer’s motor skills and speech. It is characterized by muscle rigidity, tremor, a slowing of physical movement (bradykinesia) and, in extreme cases, a loss of physical movement (akinesia).

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease. The goals of treatment are to minimize disability, reduce the possible side effects of drug therapy, and help the patient maintain the highest possible quality of life.

Prescription drugs help manage symptoms, but they can’t stop the disease from progressing. When a drug no longer effectively controls symptoms, another drug may be added to existing therapy. Disease management is highly individualized and is best determined by a doctor who specializes in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Surgery remains the only option for patients with severe or fast-progressing Parkinson’s disease when other therapies have failed. This may involve:

  • Pallidotomy. Pallidotomy involves an electric probe used to destroy a small portion of the brain that is overactive and is thought to cause the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

  • Thalamotomy. Thalamotomy involves the removal of the thalamus region of the brain (the thalamus is responsible for involuntary movements; destroying it prevents involuntary movements).

  • Thalamic stimulation. Thalamic stimulation is a procedure where an electrode wire is inserted into the thalamus. The other end of the wire is connected to a pulse generator, and the generator is placed under the skin in the chest area. This device can produce the benefit of thalamotomy without causing wound or scars on the skin and has shown to be very effective in management of tremor in Parkinson’s disease.

  • Deep brain stimulation. Deep brain stimulation is an alternative procedure used to destroy small regions of the brain. A thin electrode implanted into the brain blocks brain waves that can cause uncontrollable movements. This procedure must be continued lifelong. It is especially useful in patients that have severe symptoms associated with tremor, involuntary movements (dyskinesia), and problems with gait.