Aging & Health A to Z
Care & Treatment
Though there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are treatments for its symptoms.
The leading treatment for Parkinson’s is a drug called levodopa (L-dopa) which is usually combined with another drug called carbidopa. This combination of drugs replaces the dopamine that the patient’s neurons are no longer producing. For many people with Parkinson’s, the combination of levodopa and carbidopa gets the best results while causing the fewest side effects. Over time, patients may need higher doses of the medications. As the dose is increased the risk of side effects also increases. The most common side effects of the levodopa-carbidopa combination are uncontrolled, involuntary movements called dyskinesias.
If necessary, healthcare professionals may switch a patient who is having serious side effects or is no longer getting relief from the drugs to alternative medications. There are several alternatives to L-dopa and carbidopa, though these may also cause side effects.
Never change or stop taking your medication without first checking with your healthcare professional.
People who are no longer getting relief from medications, or are having serious side effects from the drugs, may benefit from surgery known as deep brain stimulation (DBS). During the surgery, a surgeon implants a device similar to a pacemaker under the patient’s collar bone. The device sends electrical signals to affected parts of the brain.
A small number of people with Parkinson’s have suffered cognitive decline—a lessening of mental abilities—after the surgery. And the procedure, like any brain surgery, may result in infection, bleeding, or stroke. But for people with severe tremors and medication side effects, the surgery can lessen symptoms significantly for several years.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012