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Parkinson’s disease

  • Alternative Names

    Paralysis agitans; Shaking palsy


    There is no known cure for Parkinson's disease. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms.

    Medications control symptoms, mostly by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. At certain points during the day, the helpful effects of the medication often wears off, and symptoms can return. Your doctor may need to change the:

    • Type of medication
    • Dose
    • Amount of time between doses
    • How the medications are taken

    Work closely with your doctors and therapists to adjust the treatment program. Never change or stop taking any medications without talking with your doctor.

    Many medications can cause severe side effects, including hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and delirium. Monitoring and follow-up by the health care provider is important.

    Eventually, symptoms such as stooped posture, frozen movements, and speech difficulties may not respond very well to drug treatment.

    Medications used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease are:

    • Levodopa (L-dopa), Sinemet, levodopa and carbidopa (Atamet)
    • Pramipexole (Mirapex), ropinirole (Requip), bromocriptine (Parlodel)
    • Selegiline (Eldepryl, Deprenyl), rasagiline (Azilect)
    • Amantadine or anticholinergic medications -- to reduce early or mild tremors
    • Entacapone -- to prevent the breakdown of levodopa

    Lifestyle changes that may be helpful for Parkinson's disease:

    • Good general nutrition and health
    • Exercising, but adjusting the activity level to meet changing energy levels
    • Regular rest periods and avoiding stress
    • Physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy
    • Railings or banisters placed in commonly used areas of the house
    • Special eating utensils
    • Social workers or other counseling services to help you cope with the disorder and get assistance (such as Meals-on-Wheels)

    Less commonly, surgery may be an option for patients with very severe Parkinson's disease who no longer respond to many medications. These surgeries do not cure Parkinson's, but may help some patients:

    • In deep brain stimulation (DBS), the surgeon implants electrical stimulators in specific areas of the brain to help with movement.
    • Another type of surgery destroys brain tissues that cause Parkinson's symptoms.

    Support Groups

    Support groups may help you cope with the changes caused by the disease.

    See: Parkinson's disease - support group

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Untreated, the disorder will get worse until a person is totally disabled. Parkinson's may lead to a deterioration of all brain functions, and an early death.

    Most people respond to medications. How much the medications relieve symptoms, and for how long can be very different in each person. The side effects of medications may be severe.

    • Difficulty performing daily activities
    • Difficulty swallowing or eating
    • Disability (differs from person to person)
    • Injuries from falls
    • Pneumonia from breathing in (aspirating) saliva
    • Side effects of medications

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You have symptoms of Parkinson's disease
    • Symptoms get worse
    • New symptoms occur

    Also tell the health care provider about medication side effects, which may include:

    • Changes in alertness, behavior or mood
    • Delusional behavior
    • Dizziness
    • Hallucinations
    • Involuntary movements
    • Loss of mental functions
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Severe confusion or disorientation

    Also call your health care provider if the condition gets worse and home care is no longer possible.