The Newest Parkinson's Treatments

With pharmacological and other Parkinson's treatments improving greatly over the last decade, a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease is no longer an automatic sentence of dependency and dementia as it was once feared to be. New therapies are being discovered, with even greater successes anticipated in the future as national Parkinsons associations and researchers put more funding and work into treatments.

Increased education and awareness of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease have resulted in many cases of early diagnosis, which with proper treatment, increases a Parkinson's sufferer's chance of managing the disease and maintaining a high quality of life.

Although there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, a number of medications are available as Parkinson's treatments to manage the symptoms. As yet, however, none of the available drugs halt the progression of the disease. Here is a brief overview of some of the drugs available for Parkinson's treatments:

Levodopa: sold under brand name Sinemet in the United States, levodopa is absorbed by the brain and changed into dopamine, which helps make up for the lowered dopamine levels associated with Parkinsons symptoms. For patients, the increased dopamine levels result in improved mobility.

Larger doses of levodopa must be taken as the disease progresses, to counteract the lessening natural production of the chemical. Some patients may experience side effects such as involuntary movements, tics, or hallucinations. Levodopa was the first Parkinson's-specific drug and is still the most commonly administered.

Carbidopa: another active agent contained in Sinemet is carbidopa, which helps prolong the benefits of levodopa in the brain while at the same time reducing side effects.

Dopamine agonists: often used in conjunction with levodopa, dopamine agonists such as bromocriptine, ropinirole, pergolide, and pramipexole dihydrocholoride, all sold under brand names; work in the substantia nigra (where natural dopamine is produced in healthy people) in a way that imitates dopamine.

A host of other drugs are also available as Parkinson's treatments and many of them work well to address issues such as Parkinson's-related tremors.

Parkinson's Treatments Get a Boost from Brain Surgery

Brain surgery (also referred to as neurosurgery) is considered a last resort for Parkinson's sufferers due to its risky nature. However it is considered to be the only available option for people whose disease is deemed severe or is progressing at an alarming rate.

Surgery is not the best option for all patients as there are very strict criteria and guidelines to adhere to. It is essential to sit down and talk at length with your doctor in order to decide if your situation warrants surgery and if indeed you are a good candidate for it. The three most undertaken forms of Parkinsons treatment brain surgery include pallidotomy, thalamotomy and deep brain stimulation.

Pallidotomy is named for the area of the brain known as the pallidum. In this surgical procedure an electric probe is inserted into the brain and its purpose is to measure the level of abnormal electrodes. Once this measurement is taken, another similar probe is inserted into the brain which delivers a number of small electrical shocks meant to destroy the problem area. The patient is often awake for the procedure and the results can be seen right away.

It is estimated that 10-20 percent of advanced Parkinson's patients are able to benefit from pallidotomy. However this is an extremely risky Parkinson's treatment procedure as it requires an incision in the globus pallidus which is located in the center of the brain (the striatum) and controls the body's movements.

Thalamotomy is surgery that involves the removal of the thalamus part of the brain. It is the thalamus that controls involuntary movements, therefore removing it ceases involuntary problems relating to this disease.

Thalamotomy is only effective for disabling tremors as it does not have the ability to relieve other symptoms. There are approximately 5-10 percent of patients with severe tremors in their hands and arms who can experience relief from this particular Parkinson's treatment. This form of surgery has proven to reduce or completely do away with tremors in as many as 90 percent of sufferers.

Deep Brain Stimulation (abbreviated to DBS and also sometimes referred to as neurostimulation) is a surgical procedure that involves implanting permanent electrodes in the thalamus of the brain where the dopamine nerve cells have been impaired and/or died off completely. Repeated pulses of electricity, distributed by means of an adult heart pacemaker are then used to stimulate the area in order to control the erratic symptoms of Parkinson's disease. This Parkinson's treatment has been gaining in popularity in the past several years and is proving to be very effective.

Another brain surgery that is sometimes undertaken is called thalamic stimulation. This surgical procedure involves the insertion of an electrode wire into the thalamus of the brain. The opposite end of the wire is connected to a device called a pulse generator. This generator is positioned under skin in the chest area and can yield many of the same benefits as its counterpart, the thalamotomy surgery, but not as many of the disadvantages.

Little if any wounds are inflicted or scars left on the skin with thalamic stimulation. Much like thalamotomy, this type of Parkinson's treatment surgery has proven very effective in controlling tremors for those suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Diet and Exercise - Can They Really Slow down Parkinson's?

Natural therapeutic alternatives, such as utilizing a specialized diet and exercise program, are attractive to many people who want to complement their medical Parkinson's treatments with overall good health. As with any person starting a new diet or exercise program, it is wise for a person with Parkinson's disease to check in with his or her doctor before beginning. He or she may have specific advice to accommodate the illness or to help alleviate symptoms. Some general tips for diet and exercise include:

  • Cut food into smaller portions and chew thoroughly. Parkinson's often affects an individual's ability to chew and swallow, so doing these simple tasks reduces the chance of choking and aids in digestion
  • Follow your food guide for maximum health
  • Try eating an oatmeal cookie with medications that upset the stomach
  • Exercise in bed when doing it on foot is too difficult
  • Try bending, stretching and breathing exercises
  • Exercise jaw and facial muscles
  • Walk whenever possible, even if with assistance
  • Exercise in the water; many municipalities offer special classes at community pools
  • Talk to your doctor about non-Western-style options such as massage or acupuncture for temporary relief
  • Take a good vitamin nutrition supplement like, Total Balance .

The Best Exercises and Physical Activities for Parkinson's Treatment

Regular exercise is a must for persons suffering with Parkinson's disease. Both physical therapy and exercises that strengthen muscles should be an integral part of managing this incurable, progressive condition that is directly connected to the functioning of the nervous system.

Enlisting the help of a qualified physical therapist to both implement and monitor a customized exercise plan would go a long way in helping the Parkinson's patient with Parkinson's treatment, as studies have proven that regular exercise can improve the quality of life for sufferers by relieving some of the common symptoms of the debilitating disease.

A good exercise regime for individuals with Parkinson's should include walking, stretching of the arms, hands, legs and feet as well as strengthening and flexing of all of the limbs of the body. Improved mobility is one of the most important goals of exercise and physical activity for Parkinson's sufferers.

Exercises that are geared towards strengthening muscles, aiding in toning and in putting tight and rarely used muscles to work to help keep them limber and in the best working order possible are the best choices. Although regular exercise will not slow down Parkinson's disease, it will improve strength to the body, which will help the patient physically but also mentally by allowing them a certain modicum of control over their condition. Preserving the Parkinson's patient's mental well-being should always be a top priority when it comes to any aspect of Parkinson's treatment.

Engaging in exercise on a regular basis yields many health benefits such as improving balance, strengthening muscles, thereby improving the quality of speech and alleviating swallowing difficulties, and overcoming problems with standing, walking and turning around (also referred to as problems with gait).

Some patients enjoy the structure of a regimented exercise program while others prefer to get their exercise by indulging in other forms of physical activity. Some of these Parkinson's treatment activities include calisthenics, walking, swimming and gardening. Using exercise machines such as a stepper or treadmill can also provide light physical activity that can be very useful for the body.

Incorporating Parkinson's treatment exercise into the Parkinson's patient's day-to-day life yields a host of benefits, which include an increase in cardiovascular health, improved balance and coordination, an increase in both flexibility and muscle strength, improved control over gross motor movements (as an example, walking), and improved mobility in the joints.

Other benefits include a reduction in the incidence of muscle cramping, an improvement to posture, the prevention of deformity taking place in joints, lowered levels of stress and finally, more confidence in doing ordinary daily tasks.

It is important for the person diagnosed with Parkinson's disease to always remain in close consultation with his or her doctor and/or health care provider to ensure that the exercise plan the patient is following is appropriate and compatible with other Parkinson's treatments.

As a general guideline, the individual with Parkinson's should set a goal to get at least fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise per day. Taking the time to warm up by following a stretching program is a smart idea as is doing cooling down exercises at the end of the exercise session. Marching in place is another option for warm ups or cool downs.

Begin your exercise program gradually by starting out with the most basis and easiest to do exercises and working up to the more difficult ones. Other key points to keep in mind include not overexerting yourself physically by pushing beyond your limits. In other words stop and rest your body if you feel fatigued. Always do your best to make exercising enjoyable so you will not abandon it. Suggestions are to play music you really like and/or to find an exercise buddy.

Speech Problems and Therapy Options for Parkinson's Treatment

It is believed that anywhere from sixty to ninety percent of individuals who develop Parkinson's disease will have problems at some point in time with their speech. For example the affected person might speak in a monotone voice that is softer than normal (a condition known as hypophonia), they may hesitate before putting their thoughts into words, they may talk faster than normal or perhaps they might slur their words. Some people with Parkinson's disease develop the tendency to repeat the same words over and over again while others develop a hoarseness quality to their speech.

Dysarthia is the name given to a speech impairment that makes itself known by such traits as a weak, slow and/or less than coherent speech pattern. Both the pitch and volume of speech can be affected by dysarthia. Speech problems of this kind have a tendency to gradually get worse, and not better, with the passage of time. However with the guidance of a skilled speech therapist, individuals suffering with these problems can show improvements.

Speech therapy is particularly helpful for those Parkinson's sufferers who have developed problems with volume and monotonous speech. Speech therapy, when combined with other kinds of medicine used in Parkinson's treatments, can prove to be extremely beneficial.

There is more than one type of speech therapies in use and studies have not proven conclusively that one is in any way superior to the others. However the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (abbreviated to LSVT) has been used often and has found much success. This Parkinson's treatment technique often aids those not only suffering from speech related problems but with difficulties swallowing as well.

LSVT is comprised of five main parts.

First of all there is a focus on strengthening the vocal cords (for example by practicing talking really loud and sometimes even shouting).

Secondly, there is a huge effort put into pushing patients past their comfort levels and encouraging them to go beyond what limits them.

Thirdly, the treatment can be intensive and grueling (for example four sessions a week, equaling sixteen a month).

The fourth is calibration, in other words coming to understand as well as acknowledge the effort that is required to make normal verbal sounds and the support to make it become a normal part of oneself.

Finally, the last is quantification, which simply means that the Parkinson's patient requires feedback on a regular basis as to how he/she is doing with the therapy. This helps spur the individual on.

Advice for Caregivers of Parkinson's Patients While Undergoing Parkinsons Treatments

Dealing with the long-term degenerative effects of, and the potential loss of independence that may result from Parkinson's disease and the Parkinson's treatments can be emotionally and physically draining for the person with the disorder, but also for the family or caregivers of Parkinson's patient as you progress through Parkinson's treatments.

With most countries having only limited assistance for people suffering from debilitating illness, care giving often falls to family members. While dedicating time to the needs of a loved one is a kind and noble act, it also has its pitfalls. Take a look at the following tips for caregivers of Parkinson's patients to see how you can make the best of a difficult situation while ensuring the best Parkinson's treatment possible.

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